CLEVELAND — The Guardians have traded 2016 first-round draft selection Will Benson to the Cincinnati Reds, the club announced Wednesday.
Benson, 24, ends his Cleveland career after just 28 games in the big leagues. In exchange, the team receives Cincy's 2022 second-round pick and fellow outfielder Justin Boyd as well as a player to be named later.
A native of Atlanta, Benson rose as high as seventh in Cleveland's MLB.com prospect rankings in both 2017 and '18, but despite promising power and speed fell down the list thanks to a low batting average and high strikeout rate in the minors. He recovered to hit .278 with 17 homers for Triple-A Columbus last season and was called up to the majors, but hit just .182 with three RBIs in 55 at-bats during the stretch run. He also went 0 for 1 in the Guards' American League Division Series loss to the New York Yankees.
Boyd, 21, led the Pac-12 with a .373 average at Oregon State before being selected by the Reds in July. He later batted .203 with six steals in 22 combined games in rookie ball and High-A Dayton, and was ranked as the 16th-best player in Cincinnati's farm system.
With Benson now gone, the Guardians have momentarily cleared up a spot on the 40-man roster, which could give them the ability to add someone else either from the minors or outside the organization. In the outfield, the team already has Gold Glovers Steven Kwan and Myles Straw along with Oscar Gonzalez entrenched in starting roles, with Will Brennan also providing depth and George Valera ranked as the 51st-best prospect in all of baseball.
Cleveland has already signed former All-Stars Josh Bell and Mike Zunino this offseason and invited veterans like Roman Quinn and Touki Toussaint to spring training, which starts later this month. Besides Benson, former first-rounder Nolan Jones was also dealt to the Colorado Rockies back in November for middle infielder Juan Brito.