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Making Sense Of The Hunter Renfroe, Jackie Bradley Swap

Hunter Renfroe Jackie Bradley
Chaim Bloom pulled off a stunner trading Hunter Renfroe for Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects. Let’s try to make sense on why he made this trade. (Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images)

Making Sense Of The Hunter Renfroe, Jackie Bradley Swap

We’re officially on pause. Right before the lockout cheese, Chaim Bloom decided to make a trade that will have us confused for several months to talk about. Especially since this was quite literally the last move before the lockout. After a breakout campaign, Hunter Renfroe was dealt to Milwaukee for old friend Jackie Bradley Jr. and two prospects. The question is, why would Bloom decide to deal Renfroe after such a great year?

The decision to trade Renfroe isn’t a super surprising one. It’s something I covered about a month ago. Renfroe had this big breakout season, but Boston was clearly in a spot to sell high on a player that had a rising arbitration number. Renfroe was projected to earn $7.6 million in arbitration and only had one more year of club control after the 2022 season. His arb number in 2023 also had a chance to get to an uncomfortable spot where you contemplate non-tendering Renfroe if he were to take a step back this upcoming year.

The Red Sox weren’t in a position where they had to trade Renfroe. On the surface, it felt like an opportunity sell high on Renfroe adding prospect depth he didn’t anticipate being available. Remember, a year ago the Red Sox signed Renfroe for basically nothing. A year later they bring back Jackie Bradley (who the organization values) and two prospects with really high upside for a guy they got for free.

This trade really isn’t about Bradley (although he’s part of the present day equation). This trade is about acquiring two high level prospects David Hamilton and Alex Binelas. Two players that you never could have dreamed about acquiring by flipping Renfroe at quite literally any other point in his career. Both Hamilton and Binelas were ranked inside Milwaukee’s top 20 prospects midseason according to Baseball America.

Binelas, 21, appears to have a chance to become special. Binelas was a third round pick during this past year’s draft but was considered a first round talent before slumping at his final year at Louisville. However, Binelas immediately tore up Low-A ball after the draft putting together a batting line of .314/.379/.636 with nine homers in 132 at-bats. Binelas looks like a top level bat from the left side with unique raw power and the ability to play corner infield spots.

Hamilton, 24, is more under the radar but is a worthwhile gamble and someone that’s recently risen up the prospect ranks. Hamilton was an 8th round pick in 2019 out of the University of Texas. He sat out that season because of an Achilles rupture. Then sat out the 2020 minor league season because of the nonsense 60 game season that everyone had to deal with. Hamilton (also left-handed) slashed 259/.341/.419 with eight homers and 52 stolen bases across 459 plate appearances splitting time in High-A and AA.

Hamilton has rare speed and athletic traits. His stock also got a bump after an impressive showing at the Arizona Fall League where he hit .293. Maybe not a guy that’s going to consistently blast balls out of the ballpark but someone that could develop into a speed demon utility player with the ability to hit better than other pure speed guys we’ve seen in the past.

There are so many different layers to this trade. Boston has now accumulated an absurd amount of infield prospect depth. Beyond Hamilton and Binelas, Boston already has Triston Casas, Marcelo Mayer, Nick Yorke, Jeter Downs, and Blaze Jordan who are all top 100 prospects. Forget about the other depth infielders they have. The Red Sox prior to the trade already had five elite infield prospects. Combine that with the talent the Red Sox already have on the big league club. We’re talking about an extraordinary amount of depth.

This gives Bloom options to strike once the lock out ends. Smart general managers are ones who find ways to accumulate assets. There is a pro and cons list to every decision. Take Carlos Correa for example. Boston is absolutely in on Correa but signing him comes with a cost beyond money. Under the current rules (that will likely change) Boston would forfeit their first round pick and 500K of International bonus pool money to sign Correa. Adding two prospects via the Renfroe trade helps cushion that blow. Losing Eduardo Rodriguez also helps as Boston has already added a second round pick for losing ERod in free agency.

Let’s take Correa out of the equation. Bloom has made it well known that he will target relief help once the lockout ends. Trading for a high end starter like Sean Manaea can’t be ruled out either. Dealing a Bobby Dalbec or some of the other lower end prospect depth for pitching feels more feasible without burning the prospect depth Bloom worked so hard to build up.

Bradley will also play a role on this club and it makes more sense than anyone realizes. Fenway Park is a unique ballpark. Kike Hernandez did an unbelievable job patrolling centerfield, but Bradley was absolutely missed a year ago. It became obviously Boston’s decision makers weren’t in love with the team defense last year (which is another reason the Correa move is in place. Xander Bogaerts might be moved to second base regardless).

Boston ranked 19th in defensive runs saved last year (2). Bradley is still an elite defender even as he ages notching 12 defensive runs saved last year. Hunter Renfroe has a cannon of an arm but Bradley is a way better overall defender having much more range and mobility. Renfroe was a gold glove finalist but there is controversy to that. Renfroe led the sport with 16 outfield assists but he also led all outfielders with 16 errors.

You probably need two centerfielders to have the best iteration of yourself as a home team in Fenway Park. Having Bradley and Hernandez allows you to do that. Regardless, Bradley is still likely the fourth outfielder. Alex Cora will have options. There is still an open spot on the roster regardless which will likely be dedicated to Kyle Schwarber. Adding Bradley doesn’t prevent Boston from making other moves. It just doesn’t make them so reliant on Kike having to save them in centerfield, which is exactly what he had to do last year. I’m not sure Boston trusts Jarren Duran yet either which should also be considered.

Don’t forget, part of the reason why Boston was able to secure the likes of Hamilton and Binelas is because Bradley was a salary dump for all intents and purposes. Bloom has wisely decided to use his high payroll as a weapon beyond just becoming the highest bidder on a potential free agent. Bloom decided to use his high payroll to obtain prospects by acquiring contracts other clubs don’t want. He did just that a year ago with the Adam Ottavino trade. Renfroe by himself likely wasn’t enough to get this level of prospects back.

The Milwaukee side of this is way easier to understand. It doesn’t make it right or wrong. Just easier to understand from the common fan’s perspective. The Brewers lost Avisail Garcia in free agency and had a huge hole in right field. With Lorenzo Cain already on the roster, Bradley really never made sense from a roster construction standpoint. Milwaukee killed two birds with one stone while lowering their payroll. They just had to give up some young talent in order to do so.

The Hunter Renfroe, Jackie Bradley Jr. swap is a fascinating one we get to spend several months racking our brains over. While the moves Chaim Bloom has made feel odd on the surface, there is absolutely a method to the madness. Expect Boston to come out of the post lockout window aggressive because they simply have more wiggle room to do so.

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