White Sox land free-agent left fielder Andrew Benintendi

The Sox addressed their need for an outfielder Friday, agreeing with Benintendi on a five-year, $75 million contract.

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Andrew Benintendi agreed to a five-year, $75 million contract with the White Sox. (AP)

Kansas City Royals’ Andrew Benintendi makes contact during the team’s game against the White Sox Tuesday, April 26, 2022, in Chicago. (AP)

AP Photos

The White Sox addressed their need for an outfielder Friday, agreeing with free agent Andrew Benintendi on a five-year, $75 million contract.

The deal, likely to be made official next week but confirmed to the Sun-Times, surpasses the Sox’ previous high for a player contract. Catcher Yasmani Grandal is entering the fourth and final season of a $73 million deal.

A contact hitter with good plate discipline and a Gold Glove left fielder two seasons ago, Benintendi, 28, batted .304/.373/.399 with a .772 OPS and a career-low five home runs between the Royals and Yankees in 126 games in 2022, striking out in just 14.8% of his plate appearances in his first All-Star season. He’s a .279/.351/.431 hitter with a .782 OPS and 73 homers over seven seasons, a career which includes five years with the Red Sox, who drafted him seventh in 2015. Benintendi was the American League Rookie of the Year runner-up to the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in 2017.

While Grandal’s $18.3 million average annual value tops Benintendi’s, the scope of Benintendi’s contract is notable. The Yankees had expressed a desire to sign him, but the Sox’ offer of a fifth year might have clinched if for them. The deal comes after a flurry of huge-money signings the last two weeks that dwarf the investment. Judge signed with the Yankees for $360 million over nine years, Carlos Correa with the Giants for $350 million over 13 years and Trea Turner joined the Phillies for $300 million over 11 years. The Sox, Athletics, Royals and Pirates remain the only teams who haven’t handed out a nine-figure deal.

Free-agent starter Mike Clevinger was signed to a one-year, $12 million deal Dec. 4, and the Benintendi signing likely puts the Sox at or near their budget for 2023, leaving internal options such as Romy Gonzalez, Lenyn Sosa and Leury Garcia to man second base, barring a trade.

With a career .808 OPS against right-handers, Benintendi provides a left-handed bat to help balance a right-handed-heavy lineup as well as a needed defensive upgrade in the outfield. He figures to patrol left field, with Luis Robert in center and left-handed Cuban prospect Oscar Colas competing for a starting job in right next season.

Benintendi has appeared in 678 games in left and 71 in center during his career. His defense stayed above average in 2022 after his Gold Glove season.

Slugger Eloy Jimenez’s outfield time will continue to diminish as he stays on at designated hitter, a role he became familiar with in 50 games last season. Keeping Jimenez out of the outfield should also lessen his propensity for injuries.

With Robert dealing with injuries for much of the season, converted first basemen Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets playing corner outfield positions and the defensively challenged Jimenez appearing in 30 games in left field in 2022, the 81-81 Sox fielded one of the poorest defensive outfields in the majors.

“Obviously, defensively, we weren’t quite the club that we are capable of being,” general manager Rick Hahn said after the season.

Robert was limited to 98 games because of injuries and often played hurt. He won a Gold Glove in center as a rookie in 2020, and with a faster option in right with Colas and Benintendi in left, the outfield should shore up nicely.

“We’ve got to improve defensively, obviously,” first-year manager Pedro Grifol said the day he was hired.

Grifol, the Royals’ former bench coach, watched Benintendi play in 2021 and for 93 games last season before he was traded to the Yankees for three minor-leaguers July 27. He broke the hamate bone in his right hand taking a swing Sept. 2, requiring season-ending surgery.

Benintendi also is familiar with coaches Mike Tosar and Eddie Rodriguez, who came from the Royals’ organization to be on Grifol’s staff, and with Sox hitting coordinator Andy Barkett, the Red Sox’ assistant hitting coach in 2018 and 2019.

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