Angels acquire Hunter Renfroe from Brewers

The Angels’ aggressiveness at the beginning of the season continues. The Halos announced the acquisition of Outfielder Hunter Renfroe by the Brewers on Tuesday night. pitchers Janson Junk, Elvis Peguero and Adam Seminaris return to Milwaukee.

It’s the third early strike of the offseason for the Halos, who have already signed starters Tyler Anderson to a three-year free-agent deal and an acquired infielder Gio Urschel in a bargain with the twins. Now they’re making a move to fix an outfield that had a big question mark on its side Mike Trout and Taylor Ward.

Renfroe should solidify the corner in the outfield opposite Ward. He’s been an above-average hitter in each of the last two seasons, with strikingly similar production for the Red Sox in 2021 and Brewers this year. The former first-rounder has hit 60 home runs over the past two seasons, followed by 31 home runs with the Sox with 29 more in Milwaukee. It had an identical base percentage of 0.315 each year, but more than offset that modest number with a large stream of electricity production.

The right-hander has hit between .255 and .260 in each of the last two years while hitting around .500 in both seasons. He has a .257/.315/.496 cumulative line in just under 1100 plate appearances since early 2021. His 22.9% strike rate is about average, while he underperformed slightly at 7.6%. He’s a lower OBP racquet that has particularly decimated left-handed opposition. Renfroe runs a .269/.357/.508 line across this stretch while retaining the draw advantage. He had more concerns on base but hit enough power to remain a decent option against right-handed pitching (.252/.292/.491).

This power production is Renfroe’s calling card, but he’s also a viable defender. Defensive Runs Saved has pinned him in right field around the league average for each of the last three seasons. Statcast’s range-based metric shows that Renfroe is a few runs under average annually, but he compensates for his racy athleticism with top-notch arm strength. He’s racked up double-digit assists in each of the past two years and leads all MLB outfielders, downing 27 baserunners in that time.

Renfroe’s excellent arm strength has kept him mostly in right field in recent years, although earlier in his career he recorded a number of innings in left field. If he steps into right field at Angel Stadium, that would push Ward to left field. Former Top Prospect Yeah Adell Now it looks like he’ll be relegated to fourth field/bench duty after starting his career with a .215/.259/.356 performance in roughly a full season’s worth of games. Adell is just 23 and has had 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 attempt to break into the playoffs in 2023.

Like last week’s Urshela trade, the Renfroe acquisition is about deepening the lineup with a prolific but not elite one-season veteran. Renfroe will turn 31 in January and is in his final season as club boss. He is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz at a salary of $11.2 million and will be a free agent by the end of the year. That’s a reasonable amount for a player of this caliber, but a moderately expensive season of arbitration control over a lower OBP cornerstick isn’t of commercial value. Renfroe is the second such player to be dealt in as many weeks.

The Blue Jays sent Teoscar Hernandez to the Mariners for relief Eric Swanson and pitching perspective Adam Macko. This trade came as a surprise to a number of Toronto fans, but both Swanson and Macko are arguably more appealing 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 performance isn’t all that dramatic. Still, Renfroe had a hard time staying in one spot as his price tag escalated during his arbitration season. The Halos will be his fifth team in as many years, having played for the Padres, Rays, Red Sox and Brewers back-to-back since 2019.

Adding his projected arbitration salary brings the Halos’ estimated payroll for 2023 to approximately $192 million per roster resource. That would be the highest mark in franchise history, just surpassing last season’s roughly $189 million. They have up to about $206 million in luxury tax liabilities, about $27 million less than the $233 million baseline threshold. The franchise’s spending capacity this winter was in question as owner Arte Moreno considered selling the franchise. There’s still no indication the club is ready to move into luxury tax territory, but the acquisitions of Anderson, Urshela and Renfroe have resulted in an estimated spend of $31.9 million in 2023. The latter two players represent investments for a year, but it seems Moreno general manager Perry is giving Minasian and his group some leeway to expand the squad ahead of the club’s final season, which saw him take control of the defending runners-up from AL MVP has Shhei Ohtani.

The Brewers are adding a trio of pitchers, two of whom have previous big league experience. Junk is a former 22nd-round pick by the Yankees. He went to Halos in Deadline’s 2021 deal, sending southpaw Andrew Heney to the Bronx. The right-hander has served in seven MLB games over the past two seasons, including six. He has allowed a 4.74 ERA in 24 2/3 innings, defeating a below-average 19.4% of opponents but posting a 4.4% walk rate in sterling terms.

Junk, 27 in January, relies mostly on a low 80s slider that potential reviewers say could be an above-average pitch. He’s got decent spin on his 92-93 MPH four-seam but hasn’t established himself on a big league baton to this point. He spent most of that year on an optional stint at Salt Lake, where he posted a 4.64 ERA over 73 2/3 innings as a starter in a hitter-friendly environment. His strikeout percentage of 22.1% was slightly below average, but he only walked 5.8% of opponents. The Seattle University product still has a few option years left in the minor league and can jump between Milwaukee and Triple-A Nashville as a rotation or medium relief depth.

Peguero, on the other hand, is a pure helper. The right-hander made his debut as a COVID substitute with three appearances late in the 2021 season. He earned a solid 40-man roster spot last offseason and appeared in 13 games this year. Tasked with low-leverage innings, Peguero posted a 7.27 ERA over 17 1/3 innings. He knocked out just 15.6% of opponents but hit a more impressive 12% of his total courts with sweeping shots. The Dominican native got Grounder going on about half of the batted balls he gave up in the majors.

He also had an excellent year at Salt Lake, throwing 44 1/3 frames from a 2.84 ERA ball. Peguero fanned 27.5% of batters, who faced a quality 7.1% walk rate, and brought up Grounder with a tremendous 57.5% clip. Like Junk, Peguero relied primarily on a slider throughout his MLB look, although he throws a lot harder. Peguero’s slider checked in at an average of 91 MPH while his fastball was just north of 96. Turning 26 in March, he also has two options left, allowing the Brewers to use him as up-and-down relief while they hope he can translate his Triple-A win against big league opponents.

Seminaris entered the fifth round of the 2020 draft from Long Beach State. A 6’0″ southpaw, he was not ranked among the top 30 prospects in the Anaheim system at Baseball America. He traversed three minor league levels this year, performing well at High-A against younger opponents but struggling as he climbed the minor league ladder. Overall, he processed 101 2/3 frames of a 3.54 ERA ball with a 22.1% strikeout rate and an 8.7% walk percentage. He is not on the 40-man roster but must be added or debunked in the Rule 5 draft by the end of the 2023 season.

While Milwaukee clearly likes all three mid-20s hurlers, they are all flexible depth options. Certainly, the reattribution of Renfroe’s powerful arbitration projection was a key motivator of the deal. The payroll cut wasn’t the only nudge for the trade — the Brewers simply couldn’t have written Renfroe out last week if they committed to getting his money off the books — but GM Matt Arnold and his associates chose to do some To clear payroll rooms bring in some notable depth arms.

The Brewers are projected to earn around $115 million at Roster Resource, largely due to an arbitration class that is still included Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Willy Adames, among other. That’s about $17 million down from this year’s opening day mark, and more roster-shuffling numbers are on the horizon. Dealing with a complementary player like Renfroe doesn’t suggest the Brewers will flip Burnes, Woodruff or Adames, but Milwaukee could consider switching second baseman Kolten Wong or a deep starter like Adrian Hauser or Eric Lauer. They’ve already sparked some interest from the Mariners on Wong and are sure to consider a number of avenues to try and balance the present and the future.

Milwaukee could now dip into the lower echelons of the free agent corner outfield market to make up for Renfroe’s absence Tyrone Taylor stands next to it as the current favorite for the season Christian Jelich and Garret Mitchell in the outfield. Highly acclaimed young players like Sal Frelick and Joe Wiemer could play their way into the mix 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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