Cleveland Guardians trade Will Benson to Reds for OF prospect Justin Boyd, PTBNL

Cleveland Guardians v Minnesota Twins
Cleveland Guardians v Minnesota Twins / Brace Hemmelgarn/GettyImages

The Cleveland Guardians have cleared out another spot on their 40-man roster before the start of spring training. On Wednesday night, the Guardians traded 24-year-old outfielder Will Benson to the Cincinnati Reds for 21-year-old outfield prospect Justin Boyd and a player to be named later. Benson, along with Will Brennan and Richie Palacios, was part of a crop of Triple-A outfield prospects knocking on the door last year that all saw time sparingly with the major-league club, which even included some time during the team's playoff run.

As Cleveland is set to begin training for the 2023 season, hoping to defend its divisional title, it is opening up another slot on its 40-man roster by trading Benson for Boyd, who was assigned to the High-A Lake County Captains. The Guardians could fill that spot with another reliever or to shake out its catching position, one that is in a bit of a transitional phase after the departure of Austin Hedges.

It’s difficult to lose young players who hardly got a taste at the major-league level, especially those that Cleveland fans have been hearing about for a few years. But in this current roster crunch the Guardians find themselves in, if someone falls behind in the pecking order, their days within the organization are numbered. Though Benson, a 2016 first-round pick, managed just 55 at-bats with the major-league club, he was highly touted throughout his ascent in the system.

He headlined a draft class that also included Nolan Jones, Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac. Benson was drafted out of high school, a five-tool right fielder who was just 17 years old. “He’s a guy we feel is going to hit for average and power,” then-scouting director Brad Grant said of Benson. But the outfielder struggled mightily throughout his first few seasons in the minors, slumping as low as a .180/.324/.380 slashline in 2018 for Lake County.

Benson finally broke through last season with Triple-A Columbus, slashing .278/.426/.522 while smashing 17 home runs and driving in 45 RBIs, becoming one of the 16 Guardians to make their major-league debut. Through 28 games last season, Benson struck out 19 times, drove in three runs and notched just ten hits. In this quick-trigger approach to the bottom half of the Guardians' 40-man roster, he was quickly lost in the shuffle behind Oscar Gonzalez, George Valera, and Brennan.

Benson can be a solid player, and hopefully he can figure things out and rekindle his career with Cincinnati.

Boyd was a second-round pick from the Reds last season out of Oregon State. In his final season with the Beavers, Boyd slashed an astounding .373/.490/.577, a breakout season that shot him up draft boards. He also stole 24 bases and walked 52 times, though he struck out 58 times. He played one game for the Arizona Complex League Reds where he went 2-for-3 with a double, a stolen base and scored twice.

Then, the Reds promoted him to Single-A Daytona, where through 22 games, he hit .183/.263/.239 with eight walks and 29 strikeouts in 80 plate appearances. His strikeout rate is alarmingly high, but four of his five tools are rated average or better, so hopefully he can put things together over the next few years to become a solid outfielder for the Guardians. Just yesterday, The Athletic’s Keith Law named him Cincinnati’s 15th-best prospect.

He won’t be added to the 40-man roster, and the young Boyd with tons of upside is exactly what Cleveland is looking for in the lower levels of its minor leagues. Bolster and continue to bolster - the Guardians have become quite good at that. Let’s only hope Cleveland can have some success with the player to be named later.