The New York Yankees obtained outfielder Andrew Benintendi from the Royals that sent pitchers Beck Way, T.J. Sikkema, and Chandler Champlain to Kansas City. Coincidentally, Benintendi will make his New York debut on Thursday night against his old team, as he’s batting leadoff and playing left field for the Yankees against the Royals.
Benintendi met with the media prior to the game and discussed several matters, including his willingness to get inoculated against COVID-19. For those unaware, he had to sit out a road series against the Toronto Blue Jays because the Canadian government requires international travelers to be vaccinated. (Several other governments, including the United States, require the same.)
“I’m still positioned in the same spot,” Benintendi told reporters, including Lindsey Adler of The Athletic. “I’m open-minded about it. I’m not against it. But time will tell.”
Benintendi also refuted rumors that surfaced after the trade indicating he had agreed to become inoculated as a condition of the trade. He added that he had not spoken to anyone with the Yankees about the possibility of receiving the vaccine. The New York Post’s Jon Heyman tweeted on Wednesday that Benintendi had supposedly told people he would get the vaccine.
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Benintendi’s vaccination status could prove to be pivotal for the Yankees, who will head to Toronto for a three-game set against the Blue Jays in September. Given New York’s lead in the American League East, the more dire scenario would see the Yankees meet the Blue Jays as part of the postseason. As things stand, the Blue Jays have a half-game lead over the Seattle Mariners for the AL’s top wild card spot; they have a 3 ½ game lead over the Cleveland Guardians, the top team on the outside.
If Benintendi doesn’t get vaccinated over the coming weeks, he would have to miss any potential road playoff games against the Blue Jays — a development that would be unsettling for the Yankees if they were to head north trailing in the series and having to proceed without one of their key deadline additions. It’s to be seen if things will come to that, but at one point the rumor mill even had the Yankees back off Benintendi as a result of the aforementioned possibility.
Benintendi, a 28-year-old impending free agent, is in the midst of a quality season. He hit .320/.387/.398 (123 OPS+) with three home runs and four stolen bases (on six tries) in 93 games with the Royals.