Cordero brings raw power, intrigue to Sox

February 11th, 2021

BOSTON -- It will take some time for the Red Sox to gauge the full return on the trade that sent Andrew Benintendi to the Royals on Wednesday. After all, there is one prospect (righty Josh Winckowski) who has never pitched above Class A and still three players to be named later who won't be with the Red Sox until after the Minor League season gets underway.

But the trade also comes with some immediate intrigue. That would be in the form of the one Major League piece the Red Sox acquired in the deal.

is a player that the Padres and their fans were excited about for years.

That is due to the raw power that was on display virtually every time the left-handed-hitting masher took batting practice.

It is that power that earned Cordero the nickname "El Maton" in his native Dominican Republic, which translates to "the hitman."

And when Cordero was able to stay healthy -- which wasn't often enough -- that power sometimes appeared in games.

Take, for example, the drive he hit against Arizona's Matt Koch on April 20, 2018. Cordero scorched that baseball at an exit velocity of 116.3 mph and a projected distance of 489 feet, per Statcast.

Cordero hit two other impressive blasts within the next eight days. Cordero's drive on April 23 against the Rockies went 456 feet with an exit velocity of 113.7 mph.

Then came the finale of that impressive trifecta of tape-measure shots in just over a week -- the one against the Mets that traveled 459 feet at 116.9 mph, Cordero's top exit velocity of his 12 career homers.

At that point in 2018, the Padres were all in. It was hard not to be.

But soon thereafter, something happened to Cordero that has become as frequent as his tape-measure homers. He was injured. Thanks to a right forearm strain, Cordero's final game of 2018 was on May 27. He played 40 games in total that season, bashing seven homers in 139 at-bats.

Those who thought Cordero was in for a breakout in 2019 were disappointed when his season lasted all of nine games due to a right elbow strain.

A week before the 2020 season started, the Padres traded Cordero to the Royals in a package that landed them lefty reliever Tim Hill.

"He's somebody that signed with the Padres organization, somebody developed through the Padres organization, just an A-plus person, first-class individual," Padres general manager A.J. Preller said after making the trade. "Having those conversations is never easy."

Cordero took just 26 at-bats for the Royals before the injury bug struck again. This time, a sprained right wrist knocked him out of action for six weeks.

And in his first game back for the Royals on Sept. 23, Cordero tantalized Kansas City fans with a two-homer, five-RBI performance against the Cardinals. He got eight at-bats for the rest of the season -- which wound up being the final eight he would have for Kansas City.

Now, it is Boston's turn to try to cash in on the 26-year-old Cordero's considerable potential.

The hope is that Cordero can at least slide into the everyday lineup against right-handed pitchers.

Trading Benintendi wasn't easy for Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom, but he explained it was worth it to get three prospects, and also, "to get a Major League player with a ton of upside, who we have more [contractual] control on the player than the one we're trading away and has the ability to contribute immediately in a lot of different ways on both sides of the ball that the sum total that we thought was just something that made sense for us."

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Perhaps being around J.D. Martinez, who loves to talk and teach hitting, and veteran leader Xander Bogaerts will help Cordero to elevate his game beyond just the raw skills. Also, playing for manager Alex Cora, who speaks Spanish and has a history of helping Latino players elevate their games, should be another plus.

It is more than just power that Cordero possesses. For someone who can tattoo the baseball, Cordero can also run. He is regarded as a solid defender in the corner outfield spots.

"A tools-monster," one Padres front office executive used to say regularly about Cordero.

The Red Sox will try to keep those tools on the field and out of the trainer's room.

"Obviously we need to get to know him in all ways and just see exactly the role he can play," said Bloom. "But historically he's been a guy who can play all three outfield positions, who brings a power bat from the left side, hits the ball about as hard as anybody in the big leagues and so he should be able to fit in terms of how our roster functions very similarly [to Benintendi].

"The exact role when he plays, how he's used, that's something as we get to know him, Alex is going to figure out what works best for the club. But we know he's capable of playing all over the outfield and really impacting the baseball. And we've brought someone in with the upside, if it clicks, to be every bit of an everyday player for us in the here and now."