Benintendi, White Sox finalize $75 million, 5-year contract

CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago White Sox were looking for a left-handed hitter to balance their lineup and a strong defender to add to their outfield.

They see Andrew Benintendi filling those needs.

“His profile both offensively and defensively we thought were great complements to what we already had and what we projected to break the season come opening day,” general manager Rick Hahn said. “A guy who obviously is not just left-handed, but gives you a tough AB, can grind it out, put up solid on-base numbers toward the top of the lineup and as well improve ourselves from an outfield defense standpoint. He really fit in a lot of different ways that we were looking to improve ourselves.”

Hahn spoke hours after the All-Star outfielder passed a physical in Chicago and finalized a $75 million, five-year deal reached more than two weeks ago. He is due a $3 million signing bonus, plus $8 million in 2023, $16.5 million each season from 2024-26 and $14.5 million in 2027.

The 28-year-old Benintendi helped Boston win a World Series championship in 2018. He won a Gold Glove with Kansas City in 2021 and was chosen to his first All-Star team last season before the Royals traded him to the New York Yankees on July 27. He hit a career-high .304 in 126 games, though his home run total dropped to five from 17 in 2021.

Benintendi batted .254 in 33 games with the Yankees and missed the playoffs because of a broken right wrist. Hahn said Benintendi has begun swinging and “projects no restrictions going forward.”

“Knock on wood, that’s fully behind us,” the GM said.

Overall, Benintendi has a .279 batting average and 73 homers over seven seasons with Boston, Kansas City and New York.

He reunites with White Sox manager Pedro Grifol, who took over for Hall of Famer Tony La Russa after spending the past 10 years in a variety of coaching roles with Kansas City. Benintendi’s arrival could mean slugger Eloy Jiménez moves from left field into more of a full-time designated hitter role.

Hahn deferred to Grifol, who along with Benintendi is scheduled to meet with media on Wednesday. Jiménez was limited to 84 games last season after tearing a hamstring tendon behind his right knee early on, though he finished with a .295 batting average, 16 homers and 54 RBIs. He was also sidelined for much of 2021 after he ruptured his left pectoral tendon trying to make a catch on a home run during a spring training game.

“I will say I still expect Eloy to be available and play some outfield,” Hahn said. “If you want to take some positive development out of his limited availability last year was that Eloy showed he could thrive in the DH spot offensively when that was his primary spot.”

Chicago is looking to bounce back from a disappointing 2022 season, when the team went 81-81 and finished 11 games back of AL Central champion Cleveland. The White Sox were coming off back-to-back playoff appearances and ran away with the division in 2021.

“We certainly know there’s ways we can improve both from a position player standpoint as well as a pitching standpoint,” Hahn said. “We’re going to continue to look. What happens over the course of the next six weeks leading into camp and then the six, seven weeks that we’re in camp is impossible to predict. But certainly the way we’ve perceived ourselves is not as a finished product at this time.”

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