White Sox land 'perfect' fit Andrew Benintendi at long last

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White Sox land 'perfect' fit Benintendi at long last originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago

In preparing for his first interview for the White Sox’ managerial opening, Pedro Grifol had already identified one free agent who would be a "great fit" on the South Side: Andrew Benintendi.

But Grifol didn’t name drop Benintendi in his first interview with the White Sox brass.

“It wasn't till the second interview with Kenny [Williams] and Rick [Hahn] that one of them mentioned, ‘Hey, what are your thoughts on Andrew Benintendi?’” Grifol said. “And I'm like, ‘OK, you mentioned it, not me, so now let me talk about him.'"

Grifol’s thoughts?

“He fits perfect,” the new Sox skipper said Wednesday. “He fits perfect on this ball club. He fits perfect in this park. He's exactly what we were looking for this offseason.”

The White Sox finalized their five-year, $75 million deal with Benintendi this week, introducing him to Chicago media Wednesday morning on the South Side.

He's a player the White Sox have long coveted, dating back to the 2015 MLB Draft when the Red Sox landed him No. 7 overall — a pick before the Sox.

Benintendi knew back then the White Sox would have drafted him if he fell to the eighth pick and said Wednesday he learned this offseason they tried to trade for him “a few times.”

“I’m glad to be here,” Benintendi said. “It's fun to be a part of something where you're desired, you’re wanted."

Said general manager Rick Hahn Tuesday: "I actually joked with him when we did a Zoom call as part of the getting to know you process back in November that I've waited over I believe seven and a half years to officially welcome him to the organization, given how highly we regarded him when he was at the University of Arkansas."

That interest from the start of the offseason stood out to Benintendi, and other than their long admiration of him, it's easy to see why they were so interested.

Benintendi is a left-handed bat, has a good track record against right-handed pitching and hits for contact.

The White Sox have a righty-heavy lineup full of sluggers that has struggled against right-handed pitching in recent years.

“He’s a very versatile player,” said Grifol, Benintendi’s bench coach with the Royals the last two seasons. “Obviously he’s a left fielder but he’s a very versatile player as far as where we hit him in the lineup.

“He’s done everything in the game. He's hit for average, he's hit for some power, he runs the bases well. He fits really well into what we’re trying to do here.”

On a grand scale, the White Sox, coming off a disappointing 2022 season, are trying to win.

“Expectations are high,” Grifol said. “This is not a rebuilding situation. We’re expected to win baseball games.

“Bringing Benny on board lets everybody know that we're in this thing to do some special things and play October baseball.”

Benintendi only hit five home runs in 2022, after hitting 17 a season prior. He has three seasons with at least 16 homers and believes there’s more in the tank.

He attributed his power drop to changing his approach at Kauffman Stadium, a spacious, pitcher-friendly ballpark.

“In 2021, I got pretty frustrated just flying out. We joked about it all the time, these long fly outs," Benintendi said. "I'm not the biggest guy. It's gonna take everything I can to hit a ball out of that stadium.

“So going into last year, I was thinking that let's just hit for a higher average and higher on-base, and hopefully this works, or else I’m gonna be in a world of trouble. I'm just trying to become a complete hitter.”

Playing at Guaranteed Rate Field could be a difference maker, without Benintendi altering his approach.

"Playing in this stadium,” Benintendi said, “a lot of those long fly outs will turn into doubles and home runs without even trying to change anything.

“Whatever the team needs me to do, whatever kind of player they need me to be, that's what I'll try to be.”

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