The Tampa Bay Rays designated Hunter Renfroe for assignment on Friday. Could the SF Giants be interested in the power-hitting corner outfielder?
With MLB organizations required to set their 40-man rosters for the Rule 5 draft, teams around the league have been clearing roster spots for rising prospects. The SF Giants made a slew of roster moves themselves, but are far from done this offseason. Now, they can scour the league for players released or placed on waivers by other organizations. In one of the bigger moves of the day, the Tampa Bay Rays designed outfielder Hunter Renfroe for assignment.
Renfroe is a solid defensive corner outfielder with massive power from the right side of the plate. His power comes with significant swing and miss (career 28% strikeout rate) and very low batting averages (career .228) that limit his overall value. However, to a front-office that has always been willing to churn through outfielders, the soon to be 29-year old could be an interesting buy-low candidate.
After spending his entire career in the San Diego Padres organization, Renfroe was part of a five-player deal last offseason that sent him to Tampa Bay. From 2017-2019, Renfroe hit .231/.291/.486 and averaged just over 28 home runs a season. However, in his lone year with the Rays, Renfroe posted a career-low .156/.252/.393 triple-slash. Projected to receive $4 million this year through arbitration, they decided to designate him for assignment.
All teams will have an opportunity to claim Renfroe off waivers and tender him a contract through arbitration. The Rays could also trade him to an interested team, but that seems unlikely.
If no one claims him, he will become a free agent. With Mike Yastrzemski, Alex Dickerson, Austin Slater, Darin Ruf, and Mauricio Dubón already in the team’s outfield mix, the Giants would probably need to place a claim on Renfroe to add him. Otherwise, as a free agent, he would likely target a situation with a clearer path to an everyday job.
Given the potential backlog in the Giants outfield, it may be unlikely that they target him. However, Renfroe has a number of traits that could lead them to pull the trigger. His average exit velocity and launch angle were both in-line with his career production in 2020, according to Baseball Savant. Combine that with a career-best 10.1% walk-rate and surprisingly acceptable 26.1% strikeout rate, there’s a pretty strong argument that he’s set for a bounceback 2021.
Over his career, Renfroe has also clobbered left-handed pitching. When he’s had the platoon advantage, Renfroe has hit .258/.339/.573 with 36 home runs in just 495 plate appearances against southpaws. Even in his difficult 2020 season, Renfroe posted a .806 OPS against lefties.
Slater and Ruf alleviate a huge need for platoon options against left-handed pitching. However, Ruf is limited to left field defensively and is below-average defensively there. Slater, on the other hand, remains a solid defensive corner outfielder, but has a long injury history and has ultimately only been an above-average hitter in a small sample this year.
Claiming someone like Hunter Renfroe would make a crowded SF Giants outfield even more difficult to project. However, his long history of health, solid corner outfield defense, and strong performance against left-handed pitchers could lead Farhan Zaidi to consider bringing him in.