Red Sox

Miss that '19 'Killer B' outfield? This year's Sox trio may change your mind

Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox lost a superstar talent when they traded Mookie Betts to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020. They lost the rest of their "Killer Bs" outfield last winter when Jackie Bradley Jr. signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and Andrew Benintendi was dealt to the Kansas City Royals.

Red Sox chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom replaced the three World Series champions with Alex Verdugo, Kiké Hernandez, and Hunter Renfroe. Verdugo was acquired as part of the deal for Betts while Hernandez and Renfoe signed to reasonably-priced contracts last offseason.

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Sounds like a sizable downgrade, right? After all, Betts is a former MVP and five-time All-Star. Bradley is one of the game's top defensive center fielders. Benintendi, outside of a dismal 2020, was pretty solid at the plate during his Red Sox tenure. All three were named Gold Glove award finalists this season.

But the truth is, Boston's 2021 outfield topped the former Red Sox trio in almost every major statistic this season at a far cheaper price. Here's a breakdown of how each outfielder performed individually, and how the two groups compared as a whole.

Red Sox' 2021 outfield

Alex Verdugo, LF

2021 stats: .289/.351/.426, 13 HR, 63 RBI

Contract: One year, $650k (arbitration-eligible)

Verdugo enjoyed another solid campaign at the plate for the Red Sox even though the power numbers took a slight dip from 2020. The 25-year-old came through in some clutch moments, particularly in the postseason where he hit .310 with a .835 OPS. Sox fans have learned to embrace Verdugo despite him replacing their beloved Betts, and it's clear he has embraced playing in Boston.

 

Kiké Hernandez, CF

2021 stats: .250/.337/.449, 20 HR, 60 RBI

Contract: Two years, $14 million

Hernandez was signed to be a plug-and-play utility man who could give manager Alex Cora a plethora of lineup options. He was exactly that and so much more. The former Dodger helped out at second base but was counted on to be the team's go-to center fielder down the stretch. He ended up exceeding expectations at the plate -- especially with his historic postseason run -- while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense. 

Hunter Renfroe, RF

2021 stats: .259/.315/.501, 31 HR, 96 RBI

Contract: One year, $3.1 million (arbitration-eligible)

Renfroe's signing wasn't exactly celebrated when the Red Sox announced it in December. The former Rays outfielder was coming off a horrendous 2020 campaign in which he hit just .156 with eight homers. He returned to form with a monster season at the plate for Boston and could also earn his first Gold Glove award. While he'd certainly like to forget his playoff performance, Renfroe was a huge reason the Red Sox were able to get there in the first place.

Red Sox' 2019 outfield

Andrew Benintendi, LF

2021 stats (Royals): .276/.324/.442, 17 HR, 73 RBI

Contract: Two years, $10 million

The Red Sox traded Benintendi for outfielder Franchy Cordero and prospects Josh Winckowski, Freddy Valdez, Luis De La Rosa, and Grant Gambrell. Cordero recently was designated for assignment after a lackluster 2021 season, so we'll chalk the trade up as a win for Kansas City for now. Benintendi had a nice bounce-back year at the plate while being recognized as a Gold Glove award finalist.

Jackie Bradley Jr., CF

2021 stats (Brewers): .163/.236/.261, 6 HR, 29 RBI

Contract: Two years, $24 million

Bradley Jr. was a career .239 hitter during his Red Sox tenure and was even worse -- way worse -- in his debut season with the Brewers. Not even his outstanding glove could make up for his rough year at the plate this time. The 31-year-old posted a .497 OPS in 134 games.

Mookie Betts, RF

2021 stats (Dodgers): .264/.367/.487, 23 HR, 58 RBI

Contract: 12 years, $365 million

When the Red Sox parted ways with Betts, a generational talent in the prime of his career, the move was met mostly with dismay. The trade was scrutinized even more when Betts went on to be the MVP runner-up in 2020 and help L.A. to a World Series title. But 2021 was a win for those on the other side of the Betts trade debate. Keep in mind Betts' 2021 salary of $17.5 million was more than the entire current Red Sox outfield combined. That figure is only going to rise going forward, and we saw this year that durability could be an issue for Betts. He missed time throughout the campaign with a nagging hip injury.

 

Addition by subtraction

Verdugo, Hernandez, Renfroe in 2021
64 HR
Benintendi, Bradley Jr., Betts in 2021
46 HR

Combined 2021 salary

2021 outfield: $9,749,500

2019 outfield: $30,600,500

Home runs, RBI in 2021

2021 outfield: 64 HR, 219 RBI

2019 outfield: 46 HR, 160 RBI

Batting average/On-base/Slugging

2021 outfield: .266/.334/.459

2019 outfield: .234/.309/.397

Defensive runs saved

2021 outfield: 14

2019 outfield: 23

Assists

2021 outfield: 33

2019 outfield: 10