Benintendi, White Sox finalize club-record deal

Chicago signs long-coveted outfielder to 5-year, $75 million contract

January 4th, 2023

CHICAGO -- Andrew Benintendi and the White Sox on Tuesday finalized a five-year, $75 million deal that includes a $3 million signing bonus and represents the largest guaranteed contract given out in franchise history. Benintendi flew to Chicago on Tuesday and completed his physical without issue.

Along with the signing bonus, he will earn $8 million in 2023, $16.5 million each season from 2024-26 and $14.5 million in '27. Benintendi, 28, has long been targeted by the White Sox. He was taken by Boston seventh overall in the 2015 Draft, which was one pick ahead of Chicago selecting right-hander Carson Fulmer.

“We obviously made no secret of our affection for him back in the Draft, and things just didn't line up for us to be able to make him a White Sock,” general manager Rick Hahn said Tuesday night via Zoom. “He was a player who was quick to the big leagues and fairly quickly showed why not just us, but the Red Sox and I'm sure many other teams coveted him.

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

The deal -- which surpasses Yasmani Grandal’s four-year, $73 million contract as the richest in club history -- makes the White Sox a better overall team entering 2023. They were poor defensively during an underwhelming and disappointing 81-81 showing in 2022, and their lineup was dominant in right-handed hitters. The lefty-hitting Benintendi, who won a Gold Glove in '21 and slashed .318/.384/.428 against right-handers in '22, boosts the squad in both of those areas.

Eloy Jiménez figures to see most of his time at designated hitter, after making 50 starts in that spot last season. Andrew Vaughn, who was drafted as a first baseman, will move from the outfield to first base with the departure of José Abreu to Houston via free agency. The White Sox simply will be better off with players starting at their natural defensive positions, as mentioned a few times by Hahn this offseason.

“The positive -- 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,” Hahn said. “With that said, I still think there will be some opportunities along the way for him to play the outfield.”

Over stops with the Royals (93 games, 390 plate appearances) and Yankees (33 games, 131 plate appearances), Benintendi slashed .304/.373/.399 with five home runs, 51 RBIs, eight stolen bases and 54 runs scored in 2022. He was an American League All-Star in ’22 and has connections with current White Sox manager Pedro Grifol and Major League field coordinator Mike Tosar, who served as the Royals’ bench coach and special assignment hitting coach, respectively, last season. New White Sox third-base coach Eddie Rodriguez was the Royals’ Minor League field coordinator while Benintendi was with Kansas City.

The White Sox were not expected to spend a great deal this offseason, with 10 players already on multiyear deals, and Hahn had talked about the trade route being more likely at the General Managers Meetings in Las Vegas. To date, Chicago has added right-handed starter Mike Clevinger and Benintendi through free agency.

Second base remains an open spot for the White Sox, although they have in-house options via Lenyn Sosa, Romy Gonzalez and Leury Garcia, with Garcia viewed more as a utility component and not an everyday player. Chicago also could add in the catching area, with Grandal’s deal reaching its final year in 2023 and Seby Zavala and Carlos Pérez also in the picture.

“We’re always going to look to get better,” Hahn said. “You’re never satisfied with your roster. We know there are ways we can improve from a position-player standpoint as well as from a pitching-depth standpoint.

“So we’re going to continue to look at what we have. What happens over the course of the next six weeks leading into camp and the six to seven weeks in camp is impossible to predict, but certainly the way we perceive ourselves is not as a finished product at this time.”