The Boston Red Sox made two acquisitions just before the Major League Baseball lockout that include a dramatic shakeup of their outfield entering 2022. Former Red Sox Rich Hill and Jackie Bradley Jr. are coming back to Boston, and 2021 fan favorite Hunter Renfroe is headed to Milwaukee.
Hill Signs a One-Year Deal
Rich Hill signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox worth $5 million. It contains incentives for innings pitched up to $7.5 million. Unlike the signings of Michael Wacha and James Paxton, Hill has far less upside. He will be 42 and is coming off his worst season since 2013. On the other hand, Hill is probably much more reliable. As Red Sox fans should know through his two stints with the team, Hill has been a productive MLB regular throughout his career. While projections have him at a 5.12 earned run average in 2022, Hill has not posted a season with an ERA over 4.00 since 2013.
The three depth signings of Wacha, Paxton, and Hill serve to make a formidable rotation next year. At the top of the rotation, Chris Sale and Nathan Eovaldi will have guaranteed spots. After that, the Red Sox have a lot of starting pitchers to choose from beyond their offseason moves, including Nick Pivetta and Tanner Houck, along with minor leaguers Josh Winchowski and Connor Seabold.
Renfroe Traded for JBJ
In a more surprising move, the Red Sox traded outfielder Hunter Renfroe to the Milwaukee Brewers for Jackie Bradley Jr. and minor leaguers David Hamilton and Alex Binelas. Renfroe was one of the Red Sox"s most reliable hitters this year, hitting 31 homers and 96 runs batted in while posting an 112 OPS+. He disappointed in the postseason, but still had the best season of his career. JBJ, however, had the worst season of his career offensively, ranking last among qualified hitters in OPS over 428 plate appearances.
This trade can be viewed through a couple lenses from the Red Sox perspective. The first is that they are selling high on Renfroe, allowing room for Jarren Duran to play, and receiving one of the best defensive center fielders in the process. With rumored interest in both Kyle Schwarber and Seiya Suzuki, it should be easy for the Red Sox to replace and potentially upgrade Renfroe"s offensive production through free agency if they choose.
A second way to look at it is the Red Sox essentially buying prospects from the Brewers. Renfroe"s salary from arbitration is estimated to be in the $7-8 range. Bradley is earning $9.5 million in 2022, but he has an $8 million buyout for 2023, committing the Red Sox to $17.5 million. In return for this salary increase, the Red Sox receive two prospects. David Hamilton, is 24, with elite speed. His minor league numbers are not eye-catching, but recently Hamilton did have an excellent Arizona Fall League with a .453 OBP over 14 games. The main draw of this deal is Alex Binelas. Binelas is a 2021 3rd round pick out of Louisville with huge power. In his 159 pro plate appearances Binelas has hit nine homers and posted a .583 slugging percentage. There are obvious concerns with his defense, and he has a lot of swing-and-miss issues, but the potential is amazing.
Grading the Deals
The Rich Hill deal was simple but effective. The Red Sox came into the offseason with an issue of starting pitcher depth, and the signing of Hill was the final move to cement that depth. It deserves a B+.
The Renfroe-JBJ deal cannot be evaluated without the foresight of seeing other outfield acquisitions. As it is, I would give the deal a C+ because of the downgrade to the outfield. However, if the Red Sox do add to the outfield, it"s an excellent use of financial resources to acquire prospects. In that case, the deal deserves an A.
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