Andrew Benintendi won’t say whether will get vaccinated with Yankees

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NEW YORK — Andrew Benintendi wouldn’t say whether he will get vaccinated for COVID-19 now that he’s with the first-place New York Yankees rather than the last-place Kansas City Royals.

A day after New York acquired the 28-year-old All-Star from the Royals for three minor league pitchers, Benintendi went 0 for 4 with a strikeout in hs Yankees debut, a 1-0 win over his former team. Benintendi hit leadoff and played left field, receiving a roll call from the fans in the right field bleachers.

“Felt the love from everybody,” Benintendi said. “It was just a very cool experience.”

He was among 10 Royals who missed a four-game series at Toronto from July 14-17 because he was not vaccinated and could not enter Canada. He lost $186,813 of the $8.5 million salary.

The Yankees have a three-game series at Toronto from Sept. 26-28.

“Right now, you know, I’m still positioned in the same spot. I’m open-minded about it,” Benintendi said. “I’m not against it, but time will tell as we get closer, but for now I’m just focused on getting here, getting comfortable, getting to know the guys and winning baseball games.”

Benintendi had not yet discussed the issue with his new team.

“We’ll cross that bridge if and when we have to but I have not had that conversation,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Benintendi had arrived with the Royals in New York and was in his hotel room when Royals manager Mike Matheny told him of the trade at about 11 p.m. Wednesday night.

“It’s a weird situation,” Benintendi said. “Obviously lacing it up with them yesterday and now I’m going against them today.”

Matheny was aware the trade was possible before the flight but kept the possibility to himself.

“We couldn’t do anything and tried to honor the rules that the league puts in place and letting the medicals go through,” Matheny said. “We landed and still couldn’t say anything, so I kind of hunkered down outside his door and kind of made sure he didn’t escape.”

Matheny got general manager J. J. Picollo and team president Dayton Moore on speakerphone when he told Benintendi.

“Fortunate and grateful to the Yankees for holding that down as long as they could so we could have that conversation in person,” Matheny said. “He deserved to have that conversation in person.”

As word spread amongst the Royals, many who found out from Twitter and other social media, several players gathered in Benintendi’s room to wish him well. Some even stuck around to play cards with their old mate. One well-wisher was Bobby Witt Jr., whose locker was positioned directly next to Benintendi’s at Kauffman Stadium.

“I got to talk to him a lot about baseball,” Witt said of their time as teammates. “He’s a great person both on and off the field so just really anxious to see him continue his success.”

Benintendi had to switch from No. 16 to No. 18 with the Yankees – 16 is retired for Whitey Ford.

Hititng .320 with three homers, 39 RBIs and a .788 OPS coming into Thursday, Benintendi should fit in nicely with an offense that has scored the most runs in the majors.

“Been a guy that’s got a championship, battle-tested. Obviously played a key part in the Red Sox run in ’18, was a key figure for them,” Boone said. “He’s had an All-Star caliber season, a guy that gets on base, great bat-to-ball skills, good defender in left field. I’m real excited to have him.”

Tim Locastro was optioned to Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to open a roster spot.

Boone plans to slot his new addition in left field for the most part, a position where he won a Gold Glove last year. Aaron Judge could see more time in right field rather than center, and Aaron Hicks could see time in center rather than left.

“I think he makes us more versatile, gives us some more balance,” Boone said of Benintendi.

For now, Benintendi was remaining in the Royals hotel.

“I don’t know what’s going to go on there,” he said prior to the game. “Still getting a lot of information right now so just trying to process everything.”

The newest member of the Yankees was asked after the game if he was planning on sleeping there Thursday night, and what it might be like walking into the same place his former teammates are staying.

“I am. I am,” a laughing Benintendi confirmed. “Yeah, but I’ll go straight to my room. I’ll go straight to bed.”

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.