The Red Sox announced they’ve signed outfielder Hunter Renfroe to a one-year contract (via Chris Cotillo of MassLive). He’ll be guaranteed a base salary of $3.1MM with an additional $600K available in incentives, reports Alex Speier of the Boston Globe (Twitter link).
Renfroe, 29 in January, became a free agent after he was outrighted by the Rays last month. Tampa Bay decided it wasn’t prepared to tender him an arbitration contract, projected in the $4MM range, on the heels of a disastrous 2020 season. The right-handed hitter managed just a .156/.252/.393 slash line with eight homers over 139 plate appearances in his lone season in Tampa Bay. That certainly wasn’t what the Rays had in mind when they acquired Renfroe as part of the deal that sent Tommy Pham and Jake Cronenworth to the Padres last offseason.
That the Rays were willing to part with talented players to bring Renfroe aboard in the first place, though, speaks to the decent player he’d become in San Diego. Between 2018-19, Renfroe hit .231/.295/.496 with 59 home runs (106 wRC+). That made him slightly better than the average hitter in aggregate, but the shape of that production was more variable. Over the course of his career, Renfroe has mashed (.258/.339/.573) against left-handed pitching, while posting subpar numbers (.216/.268/.449) against righties. That could point to a future as the short side of a platoon, but Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom told reporters (including Jen McCaffrey of the Athletic) Renfroe could be an everyday option in the grass.
That’s a testament to his defensive aptitude. Despite his size, Renfroe has generally rated as a strong corner outfielder. Over the past three seasons, he’s racked up 23 defensive runs saved between left and right field. Much of that value comes from his plus arm, although Statcast’s range-based metric also pegs Renfroe at five outs above average in that time. That defensive prowess has helped differentiate the former first-rounder from other on-base deficient sluggers around the league. During his final two seasons in San Diego, Renfroe accrued a solid four to five wins above replacement, in the estimation of FanGraphs and Baseball Reference.
If he can recapture that level of production, Renfroe could find a home in Boston for a few seasons. He remains controllable via arbitration through 2023. In the immediate future, he joins an outfield consisting of Alex Verdugo and Andrew Benintendi (as well as primary designated hitter J.D. Martinez).
Both Verdugo and Benintendi worked in the corner outfield last season in deference to Jackie Bradley Jr. Either could be capable of replacing Bradley, who has since hit free agency, if the Sox see Renfroe as an everyday player. Bloom told reporters (Cotillo link) that Verdugo would open the season in centerfield as things stand but didn’t rule out the possibility of future additions to the outfield.