The 2022 MLB trade deadline is less than a week away, and the Kansas City Royals' first major domino is falling. Initially reported by Jack Curry of YES Network and confirmed in more detail by Jeff Passan of ESPN, Kansas City is finalizing a deal to send left fielder Andrew Benintendi to the New York Yankees. Passan opened his initial report by revealing that three minor league players will be heading back to the Royals in the deal. Per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, all three prospects are pitchers: Chandler Champlain, Beck Way and TJ Sikkema.
Earlier in the week, Passan noted that the Royals "could be very busy" with four main trade assets over the following week: Benintendi, utility man Whit Merrifield and relief pitchers Scott Barlow and Josh Staumont. He wrote the following regarding the market for Benintendi and how it turned out to be relatively unaffected by his lack of COVID-19 vaccination (that is also addressed in updated detail by Rosenthal here):
In the public eye, Benintendi's trade value might have taken a shot when he missed the trip to Toronto because he has not received the COVID-19 vaccine. But that hasn't stopped teams from pursuing him, alongside Kansas City's other top trade chip: reliever Scott Barlow.
Benintendi is hitting .317/.387/.398, with his batting average sixth among all qualified hitters in baseball and his on-base percentage 11th. He's an excellent left fielder. And the calculus of teams -- even AL East teams with games left in Toronto -- is that for whatever they might lose from Benintendi in that short period, he brings far more in the games he can play.
Heading into Wednesday's game against the Los Angeles Angels, Benintendi was slashing .321/.389/.399 with a wRC+ of 127 in 92 games. He went 1-for-4 on Wednesday afternoon, lowering his batting average to .320. The reigning American League Gold Glove winner plays a more than capable left field and also qualified for his first career All-Star berth this summer.
What exactly are the Royals getting back from New York?
Starting with Sikkema, MLB Pipeline's No. 19 prospect in New York's system, the University of Missouri product is a player who many people in Royals circles should be familiar with. The 24-year-old was a fourth-round pick back in 2019 and boasts a career 4.62 ERA in the Yankees' minor league ranks. This year, he's tossed 361/3 innings of baseball to the tune of a 2.48 ERA and 3.05 FIP with an impressive K/9 of 13.38. Sikkema is a strike-throwing machine who is benefitting from good health at last and has a potentially plus fastball-slider combo. His ceiling as a starter is still there despite some trouble along the way.
Way, the No. 21 prospect coming over from New York, is a 22-year-old who has maxed out in terms of in-game action at the High-A level to this point. In 721-3 innings this season, he's posted a 3.73 ERA and has a 9.95 K/9. Known for his fastball that can reach the upper-90s on occasion, Way also possesses a developing slider and a changeup that needs some work before it's a viable offering. Way is currently viewed as a starter, although his lack of a deep arsenal and his high-end fastball could see him transition to a relief role in the future. The jury is still out in that regard.
Champlain was a ninth-round pick by the Yankees in last year's MLB Amateur Draft. The USC product stands 6-foot-5, weighs 220 pounds and relies primarily on his fastball. With that said, he does also have secondary offerings — he flashed a 12-6 curveball in college pretty frequently while also mixing in a changeup — but hasn't experienced a ton of success yet in his professional career. Across 731/3 innings at the Single-A level, Champlain boasts a 4.30 ERA but his FIP (3.69) and K/9 (11.54) indicate that there could be something there for a player who is unranked among New York's (soon to be updated) top 30 list.