Brewers acquire Hunter Renfroe from Red Sox for two prospects Jackie Bradley Jr.
Red Sox and Brewers have announced a deal on a commercial kickoff corner fielder Renfroë Hunter in Milwaukee. In return, the Red Sox buy out a longtime center player Jackie Bradley Jr. and two perspectives, the infielders David Hamilton and Alex Binelas.
This is an unexpected exchange that took place a few minutes before the work stoppage. Renfroe, 30 next month, has just had a solid season. Signed by the Red Sox for a $ 3.1 million guarantee last winter, the former first-round pick has become Boston’s main outfielder. He totaled 572 home plate appearances and hit 0.259 / 0.315 / 0.501 with 31 home runs. By wRC + measurement, Renfroe’s overall offensive production was 14 percentage points above the league average in 2021, tied for the highest score of his career.
Renfroe is ranked as an average league defender in terms of defensive points saved. He’s tied for the league lead with 16 assists from the outfield, often featuring a one-arm cannon that Boy Scouts have praised since his days as a prospect. But both DRS and Statcast’s Outs Above Average rated its range as a bit below par, with the overall glove sticking out fairly in the middle of the road.
While not likely to win a Golden Glove, Renfroe is a capable right fielder who is expected to take on a similar daily role at Milwaukee. Brewers lost Avisail García to the Marlins in free agency and seemed likely to rely on a combination of Bradley and Tyrone taylor in the right field. Anyone from Renfroe or Taylor could now spell veteran Lorenzo Cain at center field in the event of days off or injury for the 35-year-old.
Renfroe steps in to improve that mix and add oomph to a Milwaukee formation that ranked just 17th in stroke percentage last season despite playing at home in one of the league’s most user-friendly environments. It remains controllable by arbitration until the end of the 2023 season (unless the structure of service time changes in the next collective agreement). He is being screened by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for a salary of $ 7.6 million in 2022.
It’s a bit cheaper than Bradley, who will play next season on a $ 9.5 million contract after exercising a player option last month. Renfroe is also coming out of a far superior performance, as Bradley had a nightmare campaign in 2021 at the plate. Milwaukee signed Bradley with a two-year warranty last offseason, but he only managed a .163 / .236 / .261 mark in his 428 plate appearances with the Brew Crew.
By wRC + measurement, Bradley’s offensive numbers were an astounding 65 points below the league average. It placed last among 262 batters with over 300 trips to plate, with essentially no good for Bradley offensively. His strikeout rate hit a career high 30.8%, while his walk percentage fell to a personal low of 6.5%. Bradley’s six home runs marked his lowest total in seven years, as did his ISO of .095 (slugging minus batting average).
To his credit, Bradley continued to play his typical mark of excellent defense. The former Gold Glove winner scored twelve points above average in his 915 1/3 innings on the grass. Statcast, meanwhile, estimated it to be four above-average Outs. Still, even a glove as excellent as Bradley doesn’t deliver much overall value with such a poor attacking performance as in 2021.
It’s not particularly surprising that the Milwaukee front office is looking for opportunities to improve Bradley’s place in the roster, and they’ve found one through his former team. As the Brewers add an offensive upgrade, the Red Sox are bringing Bradley back to Boston in the hopes that a return to that environment can unlock some of his previous production. Bradley was a fan-favorite and generally strong player for nearly a decade with the Red Sox, joining the organization for the first time as an additional first-round pick in 2010.
Bradley became an important member of the Sox roster in 2014, spending most of the next seven seasons as a regular player. His central highlights defense endeared him to the Boston loyalists, and the left-hander has shown some potential up front at times. His last season with the Red Sox was one of his best, as Bradley hit .283 / .364 / .450 with seven homers and five interceptions in 217 home plate appearances during the truncated 2020 campaign.
Boston’s front office will attempt a rebound at home plate while likely reinstalling Bradley in the center-field mix. This would free a utility Enrique Hernandez play more often on second base, with Alex Verdugo and best prospect Jarren duran flanking Bradley in the corners. Of course, the Sox could look for future additions to the positional mix, with a right-handed outfielder able to round out the left-handed line of Verdugo, Bradley and Duran standing out as an obvious fit.
Bradley’s contract also contains a mutual option of $ 12 million for 2023, with a buyout of $ 8 million. The Red Sox are assuming a good chunk of money guaranteed down the line in order to acquire a pair of fairly well-regarded young players. Hamilton and Binelas were ranked by Baseball America among Milwaukee’s top 20 prospects at mid-season.
Hamilton, 24, was an eighth-rounder at the University of Texas in 2019. He’s been out this season to recover from a ruptured Achilles he suffered during his junior year with the Longhorns. , and the minor-league campaign called off last year meant he didn’t. He won’t play in affiliate ball until 2021. The left-hander split his time between High-A and Double-A, hitting 0.259 / 0.341 / 0.419 with eight homers and 52 stolen goals in 459 appearances at home. Unsurprisingly, given that impressive steal tally, the 5’10 “center fielder is making strong scouts marks for his speed and athleticism, in addition to a solid approach to the plate.
Binelas, 21, was the Brewers’ third-round pick in last summer’s draft. Seen as a potential first-round talent entering his final season at the University of Louisville, he had a bad year that took a heavy toll on his stock. The left-hander did his best to put that behind him in a brief performance in Low-A after the draft day, however, hitting 0.314 / 0.379 / 0.636 with nine homers in 132 trips to plate.
A corner player, Binelas spent most of his time in college and in the minors on third base. BA suggested mid-season that he seemed unlikely to stay in the hot corner and projected his future early or perhaps left field. Binelas will need to strike to be that profile, but he’s shown power, discipline at home and bat-to-ball skills in the past. His solid performance in Low-A – while somewhat predictable for a player drafted into one of varsity baseball’s top conferences – is a good start in that regard.
All in all, it’s a fascinating deal – likely the final trade we’ll see for some time with a trade freeze now in place. The Brewers are locking in a much needed lineup upgrade to replace a player they lost in the open market. The Red Sox are improving an uneven team defense while bringing back a player who has been very successful in their uniform over the past few years, taking quite a bit of money in the long run to add young talent to the organization as well. .
Images courtesy of USA Today Sports.