NEW YORK -- For the second time this offseason, the Mets inserted themselves as the third party in a three-team trade. The Mets on Wednesday acquired prospect Khalil Lee from the Royals as part of a larger trade that sent Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi to Kansas City.
To acquire Lee from the Royals, the Mets sent prospect Josh Winckowski and a player to be named to the Red Sox. To make room on the 40-man roster, catcher Ali Sánchez was designated for assignment.
Royals get: OF Andrew Benintendi and cash considerations (from BOS)
Red Sox get: OF Franchy Cordero and two players to be named (from KC), RHP Josh Winckowski and a player to be named (from NYM)
Mets get: OF Khalil Lee (from KC)
Although the Mets’ role in the deal was not as large as those of the Red Sox or Royals, the multi-player trade should still have a notable impact on their franchise. Lee fills an immediate need in New York’s farm system, which is notably devoid of upper-level outfield talent. The organization’s top-rated outfield prospect, Pete Crow-Armstrong, is 18 years old and has yet to appear in a professional game. Only two other outfielders rank among the Mets’ Top 30 Prospects, per MLB Pipeline, and neither has seen a single pitch in full-season ball.
Enter Lee, a 22-year-old with 158 games of experience in the upper Minors, including 129 at Double-A in the Royals' organization in 2019. Lee hit .264/.363/.372 with eight home runs and a Texas League-high 53 steals that summer, displaying the athleticism that made him a third-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. He should be ready for Triple-A this season, with a chance to impact the Mets as soon as September. Longer term, Lee could help the Mets build a bridge between their current center fielder, Brandon Nimmo, and Crow-Armstrong.
A two-way player as a high schooler in Virginia, Lee profiles as a future leadoff hitter with plenty of speed and a patient approach -- 222 walks in 1,719 career Minor League plate appearances. Key to his development will be cutting down his strikeout rate, which reached 28.2% in 2019.
Whatever risk is involved in that profile, the Mets deemed acceptable. To acquire Lee, they gave up a player to be named in addition to Winckowski, whom they acquired from the Blue Jays in last month’s Steven Matz deal. Of the three pitchers the Mets received in the latter trade, Winckowski was the only one without Major League experience. He ranked 26th among Mets prospects, behind 13 other pitchers, giving the team an opportunity to deal from an area of strength.
The move furthered an active offseason for the Mets, who have now completed four separate trades -- including a pair of three-team deals -- as well as their largest number of free-agent signings in more than a decade. And the club might not be done. Mets officials have been open regarding their desire to improve their rotation, their outfield and perhaps third base. To accomplish those goals, they’ve reportedly shopped Jeurys Familia and Dellin Betances in salary-dump type deals, among other talks.
No matter what the Mets do, they figure to remain busy over the coming days, with barely a week to go until the official start of Spring Training.