KEY ADDITIONS: Andrew Benintendi, Wade Davis, Greg Holland, Brad Brach, Ervin Santana, Carlos Santana
KEY SUBTRACTIONS: Maikel Franco, Mike Montgomery, Ian Kennedy, Randy Rosario, Franchy Cordero, Alex Gordon
In late June and early July 2014, the Cubs went into Fenway Park and swept the then-defending World Series champion Red Sox. Jake Arrieta, presaging his two no-hitters, took a perfect game into the eighth inning in the first of those three.
You’re wondering what this has to do with the Kansas City Royals, and, dear reader, I am now going to tell you.
If the Cubs had lost just one of those three to the Red Sox, both teams would have finished the 2014 season at 72-90. The Cubs would have thus leapfrogged two other teams (Phillies, White Sox) in the 2015 draft order and would have drafted ahead of the Red Sox, since they had a worse record than Boston did in 2013.
The Cubs had Andrew Benintendi on their draft radar, but he was taken by Boston with the No. 7 overall pick. The Cubs, drafting ninth overall, wound up with Ian Happ, which finally looks like it’s going to be a good choice.
Benintendi? Well, he had good years for the Red Sox in 2017 and 2018, a 4.5 bWAR year in the Red Sox’ World Series year in ‘18. He wasn’t as good in 2019 and last year was an utter disaster for him, a .442 OPS in a season ruined by a rib injury.
And now he’s a Kansas City Royal, acquired in a three-team deal that involved the Mets.
You know, this just might wind up being a really good trade for KC. Benintendi is only 26 and has had productive big-league seasons. If he can stay healthy, the Royals might have themselves a steal.
The rest of the team? Well, it’s Whit Merrifield, Salvador Perez and... some guys. Perhaps Carlos Santana will retain his evil ways and hit for them. Nicky Lopez is a pretty good shortstop, but hasn’t hit much, yet. They just spent a lot of money (four-year, $25 million extension) on Hunter Dozier, so they’d better hope he’s as good as he was in 2019.
They do have some promising young pitchers, including Jakob Junis, Brad Keller and Kris Bubic (the latter was a college teammate of Nico Hoerner’s), and reliever Josh Staumont absolutely tied Cubs hitters in knots when the two teams met in 2020.
Kansas City has also created the Wade Davis/Greg Holland reunion tour, hoping to capture some 2015 magic. Fun, but unlikely those guys are still as good six years later. At the very least, they can mentor some of the Royals’ younger hurlers.
The Cubs are scheduled to face the Royals August 20-21-22 at Wrigley Field.