The Angels have acquired outfielder Hunter Renfroe from the Brewers in exchange for pitchers Janson Junk, Elvis Peguero and Adam Seminaris. Both teams have announced the deal.
It’s the third early strike of the offseason for the Halos, who’ve already signed starter Tyler Anderson to a three-year free agent deal and acquired infielder Gio Urshela. Now, they take a step towards fixing an outfield that had a major question mark alongside Mike Trout and Taylor Ward.
Renfroe should solidify the corner outfield spot alongside Ward. He’s been an above-average hitter in each of the past two seasons, with strikingly similar production for the Red Sox in 2021 and Brewers this year. The former Padres first-rounder has combined for 60 home runs over the last two seasons, following up a 31-homer showing with the Sox with 29 more in Milwaukee. He had an identical .315 on-base percentage in each year but more than offset that modest number with big power production.
The right-handed hitter has hit between .255 and .260 in each of the last two years while slugging around .500 both seasons. He has a cumulative .257/.315/.496 line in just under 1100 plate appearances going back to the start of 2021. His 22.9% strikeout rate is right around average, while he’s walked at a slightly below-average 7.6% clip. He’s a lower-OBP slugger who has particularly decimated left-handed opposition. Renfroe carries a .269/.357/.508 line in 347 plate appearances over that stretch while holding the platoon advantage, although he’s hit for enough power to remain a decent option against right-handed pitching (.252/.292/.491 ).
That power production is Renfroe’s calling card, but he’s also a viable defender in the corner outfield. Defensive Runs Saved has pegged him right around league average in right field in each of the last three seasons. Statcast’s range-based metric has Renfroe a few runs below average annually, but he compensates for his fringy athleticism with top-tier arm strength. He’s picked up double-digit assists in each of the last two years, and he leads all MLB outfielders having cut down 27 baserunners in that time.
Renfroe’s excellent arm strength has kept him primarily in right field over the past few years, although he did log a number of innings in left earlier in his career. If he steps into right field at Angel Stadium, that’d push Ward over to left field. Train top prospect Joe Adell now looks as if he’ll be relegated to fourth outfield/bench duty after beginning his career with a .215/.259/.356 showing in roughly one full season’s worth of games. Adell is still just 23 years old and coming off a solid year in Triple-A Salt Lake, but the Angels don’t appear prepared to count on him for a regular role as they look to vault their way into the playoff picture in 2023.
As with last week’s Urshela trade, the Renfroe acquisition is about deepening the lineup with a productive but not elite veteran for a season. Renfroe turns 31 in January and is in his final season of club control. He’s projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for an $11.2MM salary, and he’ll be a free agent at the end of the year. That’s a reasonable sum for a player of this caliber, but one moderately expensive season of arbitration control over a lower-OBP corner slugger isn’t teeming with trade value. Renfroe’s the second player of that ilk traded in as many weeks.
The Blue Jays dealt Teoscar Hernandez to the Mariners for Erik Swanson and pitching prospect Adam Macko. That trade came as a surprise to a number of Toronto fans, but each of Swanson and Macko are arguably more appealing players than any of the trio of Milwaukee pitchers received in this swap. Hernández is a better hitter than Renfroe is, but the gap between his .282/.332/.508 line over the past two seasons and Renfroe’s production isn’t all that dramatic. Nevertheless, Renfroe has had a hard time sticking in any one spot as his price tag has escalated throughout his arbitration seasons. The Halos will be his fifth team in as many years, as he’s successively played for the Padres, Rays, Red Sox and Brewers going back to 2019.
Adding his projected arbitration salary pushes the Halos’ projected 2023 payroll up to around $192MM, per Roster Resource. That’d be the highest mark in franchise history, narrowly topping their approximate $189MM figure from this past season. They’re up to roughly $206MM in luxury tax commitments, around $27MM shy of the $233MM base tax threshold. The franchise’s spending capacity this winter has been in question with owner Arte Moreno exploring a sale of the franchise. There’s still no indication the club is willing to approach luxury tax territory, but the acquisitions of Anderson, Urshela and Renfroe have tacked on an estimated $31.9MM in spending. The latter two players represent one-year investments, but it indeed seems Moreno’s affording general manager Perry Minasian and his group some leeway to add to the roster in advance of the club’s final season of control over defending AL MVP runner-up Shohei Ohtani.
The Brewers add a trio of pitchers, two of whom already have big league experience. Junk is a former 22nd-round pick of the Yankees. He went to the Halos in the 2021 deadline deal that sent southpaw Andrew Heaney to the Bronx. The right-hander has pitched in seven MLB games over the past two seasons, starting six. He’s allowed a 4.74 ERA through 24 2/3 innings, striking out a below-average 19.4% of opponents but posting a sterling 4.4% walk rate.
Junk, 27 in January, leans primarily on a low-80s slider which prospect evaluators suggest could be an above-average pitch. He has decent spin on his 92-93 MPH four-seam but hasn’t cemented himself on a big league staff to this point. He spent most of this year on optional assignment to Triple-A Salt Lake, where he posted a 4.74 ERA through 73 2/3 innings as a starter in a hitter-friendly environment. His 22.1% strikeout percentage was a touch below average, but he only walked 5.8% of opponents. The Seattle University product still has a pair of minor league option years remaining and can bounce between Milwaukee and Triple-A Nashville as rotation or middle relief depth.
More to come.