What the Will Benson trade means for the Cleveland Guardians outfield

It wasn't long ago that the Cleveland Guardians were searching for any kind of stable production in the outfield.

The times, they are, a-changin'.

The Guardians dealt outfielder Will Benson to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for outfield prospect Justin Boyd and a player to be named later. In effect, the Reds added an outfielder who can help them now, and the Guardians acquired an outfielder who is several years away from the big leagues while clearing a logjam on the 40-man roster in the outfield.

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Benson, a first-round pick in 2016 who finally reached the majors in 2022, hitting .182 with a .450 OPS in 61 plate appearances, was behind a now-crowded Guardians outfield that features Steven Kwan, Oscar Gonzalez, Myles Straw and Will Brennan, in addition to Richie Palacios and potentially Josh Naylor, who could see time in right field in 2023.

The Guardians are often cautious with dealing young talent, as their standard operating procedure has been to be as patient as possible before cutting ties with players who could develop, such as Jake Bauers, Bobby Bradley and others. Therefore, the Benson trade taking place before Benson can put more at-bats under his belt is in part a nod to how deep the outfield depth is at the major league level. The Guardians have turned what was a weakness for several years into one of their strengths, led by Kwan's strong rookie season.

It also takes away one domino to the impending debut of George Valera, the club's No. 3-ranked prospect and the No. 51-ranked prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Valera, also a left-handed hitter like Benson, could hit the majors in 2023 and barring some significant setback will certainly do so before the end of the 2024 season. When he does, he'll be one of the highest-touted Cleveland hitters to reach the majors in quite some time.

Valera reached Triple-A last season and posted a combined .816 OPS in the minors. Once he's ready for the majors, Benson was the most likely option to be moved.

Boyd, a 2022 second-round pick out of Oregon State, was the 16th-ranked prospect in the Reds system. Last year, his first in the minors, he hit a combined .203 with a .547 OPS along with six stolen bases in 22 games.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at Read more about the Guardians at Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: What the Guardians' trade of Will Benson tells us about George Valera