Hunter Renfroe’s monster weekend at Fenway a painful reminder of questionable Red Sox trade

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 23: Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox at bat against the Texas Rangers during the tenth inning at Fenway Park on August 23, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 23: Hunter Renfroe #10 of the Boston Red Sox at bat against the Texas Rangers during the tenth inning at Fenway Park on August 23, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo By Winslow Townson/Getty Images) /
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Hunter Renfroe came back to Boston and smashed two home runs over the Green Monster. Look back at his trade and its implications for this year’s Red Sox.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have Hunter Renfroe right about now? Renfroe returned back to Boston last weekend, slugged two home runs, and went 4-4 in the series finale against the Red Sox.

With injuries, poor outfield play, and streaky hitting, Renfroe would be a nice piece to have for the Red Sox right now. Instead, they added Tommy Pham to their crew of outfielders at the trade deadline.

In December 2021, the Red Sox dealt Renfroe to the Brewers, bringing back longtime centerfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospects Alex Binelas and David Hamilton. At the time, the deal didn’t make much sense, even considering the upside of the prospects, but Renfroe torching the Sox all weekend illuminates how much power the Sox gave up to add said prospects.

Perhaps Chaim Bloom tried to copy Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ common trope of reacquiring a homegrown talent who thrived with the team and struggled elsewhere, in an attempt to revitalize them by bringing them back home. JBJ hit .163/.236/.261 slash line and OPS below .500. His AVG, OPS, SLG, and OPS were the worst among hitters with at least 400 plate appearances.

Renfroe is undoubtedly a better hitter, and had a great season in 2021, hitting .259/.315/.501 with a .816 OPS, 114 wRC+, 112 OPS+, 31 home runs, and 96 RBI. However, while Bradley struggled with the Brewers last year, he hits well at Fenway and is a better defender. Over 45 games at home this year, JBJ is slashing .288/.317/.468 with a .785 OPS, and 40 hits, including 14 doubles, a triple, and three home runs.

The prospects made the deal more palatable, but still far from equal. Hamilton now ranks 30th in the Sox system and is playing in Double-A Portland, hitting .230 with a .692 OPS, eight home runs, and 30 RBI in 360 plate appearances. Binelas is slightly higher in the rankings at 21st but was demoted from Portland after hitting .140 with 6 home runs in 100 AB. He’s been better in Greenville, but still only hitting .245. He’s a power hitter, with 14 home runs in 216 ABs, but overall, there’s much improvement to be made. There’s no guarantee either of them will make the majors.

Bradley is the superior defender, despite playing more right field than center this year, his natural position. He is a Gold Glove centerfielder and had 12 defensive runs saved last year with no errors, and has continued that errorless streak this year. Meanwhile, Renfroe has struggled defensively; he made 12 errors and had -1 defensive runs saved last year, but he’s improved this season. He has 8 defensive runs saved for the Brewers in 2022 to Jackie Bradley’s 6, and he only has two errors. However, Bradley still has a +3 OAA this year, while Renfroe is -2.

With Renfroe, the main draw is power, and fans got a painful reminder of his over the weekend series at Fenway, when he cranked two balls over the Monster in back-to-back games.

Renfroe’s slash line and OPS are better than last year, and he’s on pace for even more home runs. Meanwhile, the Red Sox only have three players with more than 10 home runs and rank 18th in the majors in the category. Trevor Story’s big contract was likely their attempt to replace Renfroe’s power in the lineup, but he’s been streaky, at best.

Regardless of Bradley’s outfield heroics, this wasn’t a smart trade. It’s just another example of Chaim Bloom’s lust for prospects – no matter how questionable – over talent that gets the team to the postseason.