The Chicago White Sox held Andrew Benintendi in high regard stretching back to his college days at Arkansas.
It didn’t line up for the sides back then as the Boston Red Sox selected Benintendi with the seventh pick in the 2015 draft — one slot ahead of the White Sox.
“Better late than never,” White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said during a video conference call Tuesday.
The White Sox officially added the All-Star outfielder Tuesday, announcing a five-year, $75 million deal. The signing — first reported on Dec. 16 — is the largest contract in team history in terms of overall value.
Benintendi will receive a $3 million signing bonus, $8 million in 2023, $16.5 million each season from 2024 to 2026 and $14.5 million in 2027.
An introductory news conference with Benintendi and Sox manager Pedro Grifol is scheduled for Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field.
“His profile both offensively and defensively we thought were great complements to what we already had and how we projected to break the season come opening day,” Hahn said. “A guy who … gives you a tough (at-bat), can grind it out, put up solid on-base numbers toward the top of the lineup and improve our outfield defense.
“He really fit in a lot of different ways that we were looking to improve ourselves.”
Benintendi slashed .304/.373/.399 with 23 doubles, five home runs and 51 RBIs in 126 games for the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees in 2022, making the All-Star team for the first time. The left-handed hitter slashed .318/.388/.428 against right-handed pitching.
After getting traded to the Yankees on July 28, he suffered a broken hook of the hamate bone in his right hand Sept. 2 at Tampa Bay and missed the remainder of the season, including the postseason.
“It’s an unfortunate injury but one that is fairly common within baseball,” Hahn said. “He had a procedure to address it and has already begun swinging and projects no restrictions going forward. Knock on wood, that’s fully behind us.”
Benintendi will try to help the Sox rebound after they went 81-81 last season and missed the playoffs.
He’ll reunite with Grifol after the two were together in Kansas City, where Grifol held several roles from 2013-22, including bench coach the last three seasons.
Benintendi, 28, has a .279/.351/.431 career slash line with 169 doubles, 73 home runs and 384 RBIs in 745 games with the Red Sox (2016-20), Royals (2021-22) and Yankees (’22). He had consecutive seasons with at least 40 doubles in 2018 (41) and 2019 (40).
The previous largest contract in White Sox history was given to catcher Yasmani Grandal, who signed a four-year, $73 million deal on Nov. 21, 2019.
“Andrew has showed a variety of ways that he can help you offensively,” Hahn said. “It was an interesting part of our conversations with Andrew about how he adjusted to the ballpark in Kansas City. And then once he was in Yankee Stadium, how he viewed what he could do offensively there. And playing in Fenway with the short left field, there were different skills he felt were demanded of him that he was able to produce offensively.
“Ultimately, a guy who produced a lot of doubles in a big ballpark like Kauffman and has historically shown more power, he may well produce more from a power standpoint in our ballpark. But frankly him being that consistent tough out who has the ability to get on base is really going to be job one for him and what he’s shown himself capable of doing when that’s asked of him.”
In 21 career postseason games, Benintendi has a .272/.322/.407 slash line with five doubles, two homers, nine RBIs and 18 runs. He helped the Red Sox to a title in 2018, slashing .333/.368/.389 with six runs in five games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the World Series.
He won the American League Gold Glove Award for left field in 2021 and will join 2020 Gold Glove center fielder Luis Robert in the Sox outfield. According to Fangraphs, Benintendi leads all major-league left fielders with 31 defensive runs saved since 2017.
Eloy Jiménez likely will be slotted as the designated hitter with Gavin Sheets and prospect Oscar Colás among the options in right field.
“I still expect Eloy to be available and play some outfield,” Hahn said. “The positive development out of his limited availability last year (84 games) was that Eloy showed he could thrive in the DH spot offensively when that was his primary spot.
“A lot of players we’ve seen over time take a period of time to adjust to that role, and Eloy certainly showed he was able to produce as a primary DH. That said, I still think there will be some opportunities along the way for him to play in the outfield.”
Benintendi joins starting pitcher Mike Clevinger as the major signings for the Sox this offseason.
What’s ahead for the roster?
“We’re always going to look to get better,” Hahn said. “It’s a cliché — but I suppose a cliché for a reason — that you’re never satisfied with what your roster is, and we certainly know there’s ways we can improve, both from a position player standpoint as well as from a pitching depth standpoint. So we’re going to continue to look.
“What happens over the next six weeks leading into camp and then the six, seven weeks we’re in camp is impossible to predict. But certainly the way we perceive ourselves is not as a finished product at this time.”