As explored at MLBTR last week, the Padres have a well-known surplus of outfield options, and the mix could soon become even more crowded with Franchy Cordero (and, eventually, Travis Jankowski) on the mend. The Friars moved Alex Dickerson in a trade with the Giants this week, shedding one outfielder from their 40-man roster, but Dickerson hasn’t factored prominently into the crowded outfield picture anyhow. His departure does little to thin the field.
The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reported this morning (subscription required) that a more prominent player, Hunter Renfroe, has been “quite popular” with other clubs as the Padres and other teams begin to explore trade possibilities now that the draft is in the rear-view mirror.
Renfroe was an oft-speculated offseason trade candidate, as the outfield crunch facing the Padres isn’t exactly a new development. But the Padres held onto all of their outfielders this winter, as they were seemingly unable to find an offer to their liking. In the case of Renfroe, that should prove to have been a smart play given that the 27-year-old has elevated his stock through the first two-plus months of the 2019 campaign. Through his first 196 plate appearances, Renfroe is hitting .243/.296/.602 with 18 home runs, nine doubles and a triple.
The on-base issues that plagued Renfroe in prior seasons are still present; his 7.1 percent walk rate is a near-mirror image of last year’s 6.8 percent, and he’s actually seen his strikeout rate rise from 24.7 percent to 27 percent. Renfroe’s average exit velocity has increased, though, and he’s shown more power than ever before. It’s extraordinarily unlikely that he’ll sustain his current 32.1 percent homer-to-flyball ratio — that’s only been done three times in the past decade — but an increase from last year’s 20.1 percent rate seems quite reasonable.
Beyond that, Renfroe’s glovework has improved by virtually any metric available. He’s already topped last year’s total of five Defensive Runs Saved in fewer than half as many innings. Ultimate Zone Rating has never pegged him as a positive defender, but he’s at +4.2 in 2019. Statcast’s Outs Above Average (+2) gives him a positive grade for the first time in his career as well.
In Renfroe, teams likely see a flawed but talented slugger whose power and defensive skills may be on the rise. He’s controlled for another four seasons beyond the 2019 campaign, although he’ll be arbitration-eligible in each of those years by virtue of Super Two status. Renfroe looks likely to head into arbitration on the heels of a 30-homer season and with upwards of 90 career long balls in the bank, so the arbitration process will treat him nicely. But even though he’ll be well-compensated over the long haul, he’s still a couple of productive years from securing a truly significant salary.
That considerable amount of club control remaining will give the Padres some pause when it comes to trading Renfroe, but they’ve also been linked to controllable starting pitchers for quite some time now. Renfroe is the type of piece who could help them to acquire such an asset. Corner outfielders are easier to come by than quality starters, so to acquire multiple seasons of such an arm, the Padres may need to include some other parts. As noted in last week’s look at their logjam, the Padres aren’t short on internal replacement options for Renfroe, and several teams with starters for sale are notably thin in the outfield. The Tigers (Matthew Boyd), Blue Jays (Marcus Stroman), Indians (Trevor Bauer, if they move him) all face some uncertainty in the outfield.
The mere fact that Renfroe is drawing interest doesn’t mean he’s any kind of lock to be moved. The Padres could move a different outfielder or, as they showed this offseason, forgo any sort of move and find a creative means of keeping all their current assets through the end of the season. Other injuries around the roster could always arise and lessen any urgency to make a decision this summer. Renfroe is an increasingly attractive trade piece, though, and his name figures to be mentioned frequently over the next seven weeks as the deadline draws nearer.