What the Will Benson deal means for the Guardians outfield

It wasn’t long ago that the Cleveland Guardians were looking for steady production in the outfield.

Times change’.

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

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

The Guardians are often wary of dealing with young talent as their standard procedure has been to be as patient as possible before cutting ties with players who might develop, such as Jake Bauers, Bobby Bradley and others. As such, the Benson trade, which occurs before Benson can get 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 their years of weakness into one of their strengths, led by Kwan’s strong rookie season.

It also takes away a domino on the upcoming debut of George Valera, the club’s No. 3 prospect and the No. 51 prospect in all of baseball, according to MLB Pipeline. Valera, also a left-hander like Benson, could end up in the majors in 2023 and barring some notable setbacks, that will certainly happen before the end of the 2024 season. If he does, he will be one of the most highly touted Cleveland hitters to make the majors in quite some time.

Valera achieved Triple-A last season and had a combined OPS of .816 in the minors. Once he’s ready for the majors, Benson was the likeliest option for a transfer.

Boyd, a 2022 Oregon State second-round pick, was 16th in the Reds system. Last year, his first time with 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 [email protected] Read more about the Guardians at Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.

This article originally appeared in Akron Beacon Journal: Trading Will Benson: What It Means for Wardens to Send OF to Reds


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