Hunter Renfroe has been a nice find for the Boston Red Sox, but does that mean they should get him signed to an extension?
As the Boston Red Sox try to stay in the thick of the AL Wild Card race, Wednesday night’s win over the Tampa Bay Rays to avoid a three-game sweep was important in the big picture. It was also a bit of a star turn for outfielder Hunter Renfroe, who accounted for all of Boston’s offense in the game with a two-run homer and ended the game with a fantastic throw.
Renfroe has been a nice find for the Red Sox this season. Entering Friday he is hitting .267/.322/.515 with 27 home runs, 29 doubles and 85 RBI. He is also leading the majors in outfield assists with 16. Since Aug. 1, he’s hitting .302/.347/.690 (1.036 OPS) with 12 home runs and 29 RBI.
Renfroe had consecutive seasons (2017-2019) where he hit 26, 26 and 33 home runs for the San Diego Padres. So a power display is nothing new, and while he’ll never threaten a .300 batting average he is striking out a little less this year (21.4 percent). He is hitting right-handed pitching better than he ever has (.256 this season, .225 for his career).
Should the Red Sox extend Hunter Renfroe?
Boston brought Renfroe in on a one-year with a $3.1 million base salary last offseason. No matter how the rest of his season looks, he has outperformed that deal (FanGraphs tabbed his value at $15 million for the season this week; h/t to BoSox Injection). By the end of the weekend, with 10 more plate appearances, he’ll reach all his incentives based on plate appearances.
Renfroe is arbitration-eligible for two more years before hitting free agency after the 2023 season. So the Red Sox don’t have to be in any hurry to sign him to a multi-year deal. He struggled mightily with the Rays in 2020 (.156. eight home runs, .645 OPS), and in that 33-home run season with San Diego in 2019 he hit just .216. Maybe he has figured it out at 29 years old (30 in January), or maybe this year will stand as more of an aberration. That’s the question the Red Sox have to evaluate, and perhaps fully answer during the offseason.
Renfroe will get a nice raise for 2022 this offseason, via agreement on a multi-year contract or all the way to an arbitration hearing. The Red Sox could non-tender him and let him become a free agent too, but that is unlikely.
For the Red Sox, with contract situations for Rafael Devers, Xander Bogaerts (player opt-out after 2022), and J.D. Martinez looming, cost control is an important consideration in regard to Renfroe. That could take shape by going year-to-year the next two years, or buying those arbitration years out with a two or three-year deal.
If Renfroe is comfortable in Boston and wants security, getting a multi-year deal done this offseason might not be that hard. But any negotiations along that line can be on the Red Sox terms, right or wrong, with club control that allows them to draw a line and kick the can down the road if they want to.
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