The Angels have purchased an outfielder Hunter Renfroe from the Brewers in exchange for pitchers Jason Junk, Elvis Peguero and Adam Seminary. Both teams have announced the deal.
It’s the third early bout of the off-season for the Halos, who have already signed a starter Tyler Andersen to a three-year free agent deal and acquired infielder Gio Urshela. Now they’re taking a step toward fixing an outfield that was next to a big question mark Mike Forel and Taylor Ward.
Renfroe should strengthen the outfield-spot on the corner alongside Ward. He has 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 hit a combined 60 home runs over the past two seasons, following a 31-homer showing with the Sox with 29 more in Milwaukee. He had an identical .315 on-base percentage each year, but more than offset that modest number with major power production.
The right-handed hitter batted between .255 and .260 in each of the past two years while batting around .500 both seasons. He has a cumulative .257/.315/.496 streak in just under 1100 at bats dating back to the start of 2021. His strikeout percentage of 22.9% is close to average, while he has a slightly below average of 7.6% ran. He is a lower OBP slugger who has mainly decimated the southpaw opposition. Renfroe has a line of .269/.357/.508 in 347 at bats over that stretch, holding onto the pack advantage, though he has enough power to remain a good 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 put him on right field around the league average in each of the past three seasons. Statcast’s range-based stat puts Renfroe a few runs below average each year, but he makes up for his fringe athleticism with top-tier arm strength. Picking up double-digit assists in each of the past two years, he leads all MLB outfielders and has retired 27 baserunners in that time.
Renfroe’s excellent arm strength has kept him mostly in right field in recent years, though he did log several innings left earlier in his career. If he steps into right field at Angel Stadium, it would push Ward into left field. Former top prospect Joe Adell it now looks like he will be relegated to fourth outfield/bench duty after starting his career with a .215/.259/.356 mark in about a full season of games. Only 23 years old, Adell has had a solid year in Triple-A Salt Lake, but the Angels seem unwilling to count on him for a regular role as they look to fight their way to the playoffs in 2023.
As with last week’s Urshela trade, the Renfroe acquisition is about deepening the lineup with a prolific but not an elite veteran for a season. Renfroe turns 31 in January and is in his final season as club inspector. He is projected by MLBTR associate 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 fair amount for a player of this caliber, but a fairly expensive season of arbitrage control over a corner slugger with a lower OBP isn’t teeming with trade value. Renfroe is the second player of that kind to be traded in as many weeks.
The Blue Jays have split Teoscar Hernandez for the Mariners Eric Swanson and pitching perspective Adam Makko. That trade came as a surprise to some Toronto fans, but both 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 his .282/.332/.508 line of the past two seasons and Renfroe’s production isn’t as dramatic. Nevertheless, Renfroe has had a hard time staying in one place as his price tag has escalated during his arbitrage seasons. The Halos will be his fifth team in as many years, having played consecutively for the Padres, Rays, Red Sox and Brewers as of 2019.
Adding in his projected arbitrage salary, Halos’ projected payroll for 2023 rises to about $192 million, per Roster Resource. That would be the highest figure in franchise history, narrowly higher than their estimated $189 million from last season. They’re up to about $206 million in luxury tax liabilities, about $27 million shy of the $233 million 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 is still no indication that the club is ready to approach luxury tax territory, but the acquisitions of Anderson, Urshela and Renfroe have generated an estimated $31.9 million in spending. The final two players represent a year-long investment, but indeed Moreno appears to be giving general manager Perry Minasian and his group some leeway to add to the squad ahead of the club’s final season in control of the defensive AL MVP runner-up. Shohei Ohtani.
The Brewers add three 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 sending southpaws Andrew Heaney to the Bronx. The righthander pitched in seven MLB games over the past two seasons, starting six of them. He has allowed a 4.74 ERA over 24 2/3 innings, striking out 19.4% of opponents but recording a 4.4% walk rate.
Junk, 27 in January, leans mainly on an ’80s slider, which potential reviewers suggest could be an above-average pitch. He’s got quite a spin on his 92-93 MPH four-seam, but hasn’t cemented himself in a big league staff so far. He spent most of this year on an optional assignment to Triple-A Salt Lake, where he posted a 4.74 ERA through 73 2/3 innings as a starter in a batter-friendly environment. His strikeout percentage of 22.1% was slightly below average, but he only walked 5.8% of opponents. The Seattle University product has a few minor league option years left and can bounce between Milwaukee and Triple-A Nashville as rotation or mid-relief depth.
Peguero, on the other hand, is a pure reliever. The right wing made his debut late in the 2021 season with three appearances as a COVID replacement. He earned a regular spot on the 40-man roster last season, appearing in 13 games last season. Charged with low-leverage innings, Peguero posted a 7.27 ERA over 17 1/3 innings. He knocked out only 15.6% of opponents, but landed swinging blows on a whopping 12% of his total throws. The Dominican Republic native caused grounders on about half of the batted balls he surrendered in the majors.
He also had an excellent year in Salt Lake, throwing 44 1/3 frames of 2.84 ERA ball. Peguero fanned out 27.5% of the batters against a quality walk of 7.1% and scored grounders at a massive 57.5% clip. Like Junk, Peguero relied mostly on a slider during his MLB look, though he throws much harder. Peguero’s slider checked in at an average speed of 91 MPH, while his fastball sat just north of 96. He turns 26 in March and also has two options left, so the Brewers can use him as an up and down middle assist option in the hopes that he can translate his Triple-A success against big league opponents.
Seminaris went out of Long Beach State in the fifth round in the 2020 draft. A 6’0″ southpaw, he was not among the top 30 prospects in the Anaheim system at Baseball America. He progressed through three minor league levels this year, performing well at High-A against younger competition, but struggled as he climbed the minor league ladder. In all, he worked 101 2/3 frames of 3.54 ERA ball with a 22.1% batting percentage and 8.7% running percentage. He is not on the 40-man roster, but will need to be added or included in the Rule 5 draft by the end of the 2023 season.
While Milwaukee clearly likes all three mid-twenties pitchers, they are all flexible depth options. A key driver in the deal for the Brew Crew was undoubtedly the reassignment of Renfroe’s hefty arbitrage projection. Payroll cuts weren’t the only driver for the trade — the Brewers simply couldn’t have offered Renfroe last week if they were determined to take his money off the books — but GM Matt Arnold and his staff opted to free up some salary headroom. while bringing a few depth arms of note.
The Brewers are expected to earn a salary of around $115 million at Roster Resource, largely thanks to an arbitration class that still consists of Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Willie Adams, among other things. That’s about $17 million less than this year’s Opening Day mark, and more roster-shaking numbers are on the horizon for Milwaukee. Sharing a complementary player like Renfroe doesn’t suggest the Brewers are about to flip Burnes, Woodruff or Adames this winter, but Milwaukee might consider moving the second baseman. Kolten Wong or a depth starter like Adrian Huiser or Eric Lauer. They’ve already sparked some interest from the Mariners on Wong and will certainly consider a number of ways to try and balance the present and future.
Milwaukee could dive into the lower levels of the free agent outfield market to accommodate Renfroe’s absence, with Tyron Taylor standing as the current playtime favorite next Christian Jelich and Garret Mitchell in the outfield. Much acclaimed young players like Sal Frelick and Joey Wiemer could work their way into the mix mid-season, but it would be a surprise if the Brewers didn’t add at least one veteran outfielder for Opening Day.
More to come