RED SOX INSIDER

Tomase: This skill makes Renfroe a throwback signing for Sox

RED SOX INSIDER

There was a time when the Red Sox devoted their resources -- with varying degrees of success -- to the acquisition of right-handed power, be it Orlando Cepeda, George Scott, Jack Clark, or Manny Ramirez, to name a few.

Exploit that short left field porch, the thinking went, to the exclusion of pretty much everything else.

Times have changed and so has conventional wisdom. When the Red Sox signed slugging DH J.D. Martinez before the 2018 season, for instance, it was because he could hit for power and average to all fields.

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Every once in a while, however, it's OK to sound like a GM out of the 1970s. And that was certainly the case on Monday when Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom gushed about new acquisition Hunter Renfroe, an outfielder with dead pull power whose swing seems made for Fenway.

"He should be able to mis-hit balls over the Green Monster," Bloom said. "We saw it this summer. He was playing in a different uniform, but he came in here and peppered the Mass Pike and also hit balls into the bullpen. He's got true power to be able to hit balls the other way out of here as a right-hander, and certainly more than enough power to hit and mis-hit balls over the left field wall."

Renfroe signed a one-year deal after being set free by the Rays, who are once again slashing payroll. The 28-year-old slugger has come full circle in one sense, since the Red Sox selected him in the 31st round of the 2010 draft out of high school before he opted instead to attend college at Mississippi State, where he became the No. 13 overall pick in 2013.

 

Renfroe brings two primary skills to Boston. The first is right-handed power, including a career-high 33 homers with the Padres in 2019. The second is above-average corner defense, which could allow Alex Verdugo to shift to center field if the Red Sox don't fill that position this winter.

"I really look forward to playing hopefully 80-plus games there (in Fenway)," Renfroe said via Zoom. "Especially like you said, the pull hitter I am, there's no bones about it. I like to pull the ball. I feel like that's where most of my power is, to left, left-center, so I think that's going to really treat me."

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Renfroe joins a Red Sox outfield featuring three corner outfielders but no true center fielder. Though Renfroe was a 2019 Gold Glove finalist who says he has worked hard at shoring up deficiencies on balls hit to his right, he has only played 15 innings in center. He could bump either Verdugo or left fielder Andrew Benintendi to center, though the latter's defensive shortcomings make the former a more likely choice.

Offensively, the Red Sox saw what Renfroe can do this August in Boston, when he slammed two homers during the Rays' three-game sweep.

"Obviously the Green Monster is real. That field is unprecedented -- short, 310 to left field and a giant wall out there," Renfroe said. "Obviously just the memories in history that people have at that field is just incredible and just to be part of that is just like a little kid's dream. I really look forward to being out there. I had a great series there this year and hope to build off that."

The Red Sox tried to draft him a decade ago, but Renfroe didn't feel mature enough and chose to enroll in college, where he flourished.

"I'm very excited to be part of the Boston Red Sox," Renfroe said. "Obviously they were the first ones to take a shot at me in high school. They drafted me in high school in 2010. I'm pretty excited to get back and to sign with them. I'm probably going to text (scout) Danny Watkins after this and say it took 10 years for me to sign with the Red Sox but I finally did it."

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Renfroe is a lifetime .228 hitter who joined the Rays last December before hitting a career-worst .156 with eight homers in 42 games. He added a pair of homers in the playoffs.

"He's a very well-rounded player," Bloom said. "The power is obvious and that's been kind of his main calling card throughout his career. But he's more than a one-trick pony. He's an athlete. He's a really good defensive outfielder so he should be able to contribute on both sides of the ball. His offensive game is really made for Fenway Park."