Angels acquire Hunter Renfroe from Brewers

Angels acquire Hunter Renfroe from Brewers

The Angels’ early-season aggressiveness continues. The Halos have announced the acquisition of the outfielder Hunter Renfroe of the Brewers on Tuesday night. Pitchers Junk Janson, Elvis Peguero and Adam Seminaris head back to Milwaukee.

It’s the third early strike of the offseason for the Halos, who have already signed a starter Tyler Anderson to a three-year free agent contract and an acquired infielder Gio Urshela in an exchange with the twins. Now they are taking a step towards fixing an outfield that had a major question mark next to it Mike Trout and Neighborhood Taylor.

Renfroe should shore up the outfield corner in front of Ward. He’s been an above-average hitter in each of the past two seasons, with surprisingly similar output for the Red Sox in 2021 and the Brewers this year. The former first-rounder has racked up 60 home runs over the past two seasons, following a 31-home run performance with the Sox and 29 more in Milwaukee. He had an identical on-base percentage of .315 every year, but more than made up for that modest number with great power output.

The right-handed hitter has hit between .255 and .260 in each of the past two years while hitting around .500 both seasons. He has a 0.257 / 0.315 / 0.496 cumulative line in just under 1,100 plate appearances since the start of 2021. His strikeout rate of 22.9% is just around average, while he has walked at a clip slightly below the 7.6% average. He’s an inferior OBP hitter who has particularly decimated left-handed opposition. Renfroe carries a .269/.357/.508 line on this stretch while maintaining the peloton advantage. He had bigger concerns on base, but hit with enough power to still be a decent option against the right-handed throw (.252/.292/.491).

That power output is Renfroe’s calling card, but he’s also a viable defender. Defensive Runs Saved has placed him just around league average in right field in each of the past three seasons. Statcast’s reach-based metric has Renfroe a few runs below average per year, but he makes up for his marginal athleticism with top-tier arm strength. He’s had double-digit assists in each of the past two years, and he leads all MLB outfielders with 27 base runners cut during that span.

Renfroe’s excellent arm strength has kept him mostly in right field in recent years, although he did record a number of innings in left field earlier in his career. If he enters right field at Angel Stadium, it would push Ward to left field. Former top prospect I Adell Now looks like he will be relegated to the fourth outfield/sideline after starting his career with a .215/.259/.356 performance in about a full season of games. Adell is still just 23 and fresh off a solid year at Triple-A Salt Lake, but the Angels don’t seem ready to count on him for a regular role as they look to make their way through the playoffs. playoffs in 2023.

As with the Urshela trade last week, the Renfroe acquisition aims to deepen the roster with a productive but not elite one-season veteran. Renfroe turns 31 in January and is in his final season under the club’s control. He is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for a salary of $11.2 million, and he will be a free agent at the end of the year. That’s a reasonable sum for a player of this caliber, but a moderately expensive season of umpiring control over an inferior OBP corner hitter isn’t brimming with trade value. Renfroe is the second player of this ilk treated in as many weeks.

The Blue Jays sent Theoscar Hernandez to the Mariners for relief Erik Swanson and prospecting Adam Macko. This trade surprised a number of Toronto fans, but Swanson and Macko are arguably more attractive players than any of the three pitchers Milwaukee received in this trade. Hernández is a better hitter than Renfroe, but the gap between the former’s .282/.332/.508 line over the past two seasons and the latter’s production isn’t all that dramatic. Nonetheless, Renfroe struggled to stay in one place as his price rose throughout his officiating seasons. The Halos will be his fifth team in as many years, having successively played for the Padres, Rays, Red Sox and Brewers since 2019.

Adding his projected referee salary bumps the Halos’ estimated payroll for 2023 to around $192 million, per Roster Resource. That would be the highest mark in franchise history, narrowly surpassing their $189 million ballpark figure from last season. They represent approximately $206 million in luxury tax liabilities, approximately $27 million less than the base threshold of $233 million. The ability to buy the franchise this winter has come into question, with owner Arte Moreno exploring a sale of the franchise. There’s still no indication the club is willing to step into luxury tax territory, but the acquisitions of Anderson, Urshela and Renfroe have involved an estimated spend of $31.9 million in 2023. These latter two players represent year-long investments, but it looks like Moreno is giving general manager Perry Minasian and his group some leeway to add to the roster ahead of the club’s final season of vetting on the reigning AL runners-up MVP. Shohei Ohtani.

The Brewers are adding a trio of pitchers, two of whom already have major league experience. Junk is a former 22nd round pick of the Yankees. He went to the Halos as part of the 2021 delay deal which sent southpaw Andrew Heane in the Bronx. The right-hander has pitched seven MLB games over the past two seasons, starting six. He allowed a 4.74 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, knocking out 19.4% of below-par opponents, but posting a 4.4% walk rate on the pounds.

Junk, 27 in January, is mostly relying on an 80s low slider that prospect evaluators say could be a step above average. He has a decent spin on his four seams of 92-93 MPH but hasn’t cemented himself on a big league staff at this point. He spent most of that year on an optional assignment in Salt Lake, where he posted a 4.64 ERA in 73 2/3 innings as a starter in a batter-friendly environment. His strikeout percentage of 22.1% was slightly below average, but he walked only 5.8% of opponents. The Seattle University product has two more option years in the minor leagues and can bounce between Milwaukee and Triple-A Nashville in rotation or in mid-relief depth.

Peguero, on the other hand, is a pure reliever. The right-hander debuted with three appearances as a substitute for COVID at the end of the 2021 season. He earned a permanent spot on the 40-man roster last offseason and has played 13 games this year. Loaded with low leverage innings, Peguero had a 7.27 ERA in 17 1/3 innings. He only hit 15.6% of his opponents, but got sweeping strikes on an impressive 12% more of his total throws. The Dominican Republic native provoked grounders on about half of the batted balls he returned in the majors.

He also had a great year in Salt Lake, where he threw 44 1/3 ERA 2.84 ball frames. Peguero fanned 27.5% of batters against a 7.1% quality walk rate and racked up grounders at a whopping 57.5% clip. Like Junk, Peguero has primarily relied on a slider during his MLB look, although he throws much harder. The Peguero slider averaged 91 MPH while his fastball was just north of 96. He turns 26 in March and also has two options remaining, so the Brewers can deploy him as a middle reliever from up and down while hoping he can translate his Triple-A success against big league opponents.

Seminaris went to the fifth round of the 2020 draft at Long Beach State. A 6’0″ southpaw, he was not ranked among the top 30 prospects in the Anaheim system at Baseball America. He has come through three minor league tiers this year, performing well at High-A against younger competition but struggling as he climbs the minor league ladder. In total, he worked 101 2/3 ball frames 3.54 ERA with a strikeout rate of 22.1% and a walk percentage of 8.7%. He is not on the 40-man roster but will need to be added by the end of the 2023 season or be exposed in the Rule 5 Draft.

While Milwaukee clearly likes all three mid-20s pitchers, they’re each flexible depth options. One of the main motivating factors for the deal was certainly the reassignment of Renfroe’s heavy refereeing projection. Slashing payrolls weren’t the only impetus for the trade – Brewers could have simply not bid Renfroe last week had they committed to getting his money off the books – but chief executive Matt Arnold and his staff have opted to free up some payroll while bringing in a few arms of note depth.

Brewers are expected to make around $115 million in salary at Roster Resource, largely thanks to an umpiring class that still includes Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and willy adames, among others. That’s about $17 million less than this year’s opening day, and more roster shake-up numbers on the horizon. Dealing with a complementary player like Renfroe doesn’t suggest the Brewers are close to turning over Burnes, Woodruff or Adames, but Milwaukee could consider moving the second baseman Kolten Wong or a deep starter like Adrian Houser Where Eric Lauer. They have already sparked the interest of Mariners on Wong and are sure to consider a number of ways to try and balance the present and the future.

Milwaukee could now tap into the lower levels of the outside market of the free agent corner to fill Renfroe’s absence, with Tyrone Taylor standing as the current favorite for playtime alongside Christian Yelich and Garrett Mitchell in the outfield. Highly touted young players like Sal Frelick and Joey Wimer could work their way into the midseason, but it would be a surprise if the Brewers didn’t add at least one veteran outfielder before Opening Day.

Images courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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