The Boston Red Sox signed outfielder Hunter Renfroe to a one year deal yesterday, and began to get their free agency plans underway. As the MLB’s free agency period continues to move at a snail’s pace, Renfroe is the first domino to fall for a team that will continue to look to add new pieces.
Renfroe comes over from a Tampa Bay Rays team that fell two games short of a World Series victory. Despite the Rays success throughout the season, Renfroe sturggled for much of the pandemic shortened season. He had a meager .156 batting average and 8 home runs. While Renfroe has always traded batting average for power, a player hitting .156 is pretty much unplayable, even with the home run potential. Chaim Bloom and the Red Sox will be hoping Renfroe’s struggles were limited to last season, and that he can find a way to put up similar numbers to his days on the San Diego Padres when he would hit 20 plus home runs with a low .200 batting average.
Renfroe’s addition will certainly put Jackie Bradley Jr.’s future with the team up in the air. Bradley is currently unsigned on the free agent market, and while the addition of Renfroe doesn’t fully rule out a potential return, it definitely hampers the chances of it happening. Despite Bradley’s defensive wizardry, his offensive output is best described as consistently inconsistent. For every hot streak Bradley has at the plate, a cold spell follows shortly after. Bloom is clearly looking to add some offensive consistency with the mashing bat of Renfroe, even if it comes with the trade off of losing one of the best defensive outfielders in the game.
With the roster as currently constructed, the opening day outfield looks like it will include Andrew Benintendi and Alex Verdugo alongside Renfroe. Banking on Benintendi and Renfroe to have bounce back seasons is a risky proposition, which is why it seems likely the Red Sox will add more depth in the outfield. After forming a deadly combination with Mookie Betts atop the Red Sox lineup during their 2018 championship run, Benintendi has regressed mightily over the past two seasons, to the point where he was almost unplayable before he suffered a season ending rib injury. This is a make or break year for the young outfielder, but he will most certainly get the opportunity to prove he can play.
Benintendi will probably be a lock to play in front of the Green Monster in left field, leaving Verdugo and Renfroe between the two other spots. Verdugo played right field when Bradley was in center, but Verdugo is probably the better option to play center field over Renfroe. Renfroe is not necessarily the most agile outfielder, but he has great arm strength and was tied for the league lead in outfield assists with Bryce Harper at 13. That will definitely be a helpful asset to have in the vast right field at Fenway. Another option would be playing J.D. Martinez in either left or right field, but that wouldn’t be an ideal scenario, as he isn’t great in the field.
With the first big move of the offseason in the books, it’s time for Bloom and the Red Sox to build on it. The rotation and bullpen are in need of more help, and the depth of the lineup is still lacking as well. The Renfroe deal does not cause a huge hit to the salary cap, so the Red Sox have the freedom to make a couple more moves before the season’s start. It is only December, so there is still a couple months before the start of Spring Training (hopefully). In that time, it will be important for the Red Sox to address some of their other glaring issues in order to put this team back on the right track and rebound from last season’s mess.