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Rays Trade Target: Hunter Renfroe

A big, righty power bat that could fit exactly what the Rays need in 2018

MLB: San Diego Padres at Pittsburgh Pirates Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the MLB hot stove has actually heated up, there are some interesting residual effects. Let’s focus on two major moves made over the past weekend that could result in a pair of sensible trade partners.

The Padres signed Eric Hosmer

On Saturday, the Padres announced their eight-year, $144 million deal with Eric Hosmer, the 28-year-old first baseman who had spent his career with Kansas City up to that point. The biggest ripple effect from this move was that Wil Myers (you remember him) will now move back to the right field to make room for Hosmer at first base. The San Diego outfield is now surprisingly crowded for a team that finished 71-91 last season. The Padres will likely be running out a starting outfield of Myers in right field, Manny Margot in center, and Jose Pirela (2017 Most Improved Padre) in left field.

With no DH to play with in the National League, that leaves Hunter Renfroe, who started 126 games for the Padres in 2017, on the outside looking in, having to battle for playing time in San Diego.

The Rays designated Corey Dickerson

That same night, the Rays DFA’d their lone position player All-Star from 2017, Corey Dickerson. Last season, Dickerson started 93 games in left field for the Rays, which means that there is now a good chunk of playing time available in the Rays outfield. You see where this is going.

As of right now, the Rays will be relying on Steven Souza in right field and Kevin Kiermaier in center, with left field the biggest question mark.

Mallex Smith and Denard Span sit atop the depth chart right now, but both players profile similarly: left-handed slap hitters. You know who isn’t a left-handed slap hitter? The 6’ 1” 220 lb., built-like-a-middle-linebacker, right-handed power hitter Hunter Renfroe.

Renfroe’s Background

For his career, Renfroe is a solid, albeit not dominant, hitter. His 105 OPS+ flatters him a bit, and his OPS+ of 97 in his first full season (2017) is more likely closer to the real deal. However, you know where Renfroe is truly dominant?

Against lefties.

For his career (an admittedly small sample of 133 MLB games), he has a .676 OPS against righties, and a 1.084 OPS against lefties. He has 12 home runs and 85 total bases in his 140 plate appearances against southpaws in his MLB career. In 2016, in Triple-A, he also posted an OPS over 1.000 vs LHP. For the Fangraphs fans in the room, that’s a career 178 wRC+ against lefties.

Now, Renfroe did lead all NL outfielders in errors last year, and he hasn’t played left field since the minors, but there are a few caveats to those flaws.

First, he made up for the errors with arguably the best arm in baseball.

Yes, that is correct, his outfield arm topped 100 mph! He’s accurate too, as his nine assists also led all NL outfielders in 2017.

As far as positions are concerned, while Souza and Renfroe are both right fielders by trade, they both have played left field in the past. Plus, we all know where left field is on the defensive spectrum, and with KK next to whomever it may be in left, there’s a little more wiggle room.

Making a Trade Work

At least in theory, a Dickerson-for-Renfroe swap makes sense.

Renfroe just turned 26, and he will be under team control through 2023, so the Padres may not be looking to move on from their 2013 first-round pick. Dickerson will also make far more in 2017 than Renfroe, but if the Padres are “going for it,” as the Hosmer signing would seem to suggest, bringing on a few extra million may not be as a big a deal as we are accustomed to thinking here in Tampa Bay.

Dickerson would make for a better platoon/backup for Pirela in left field (and an excellent DH when the team travels to the American League for games), while Renfroe makes absolutely perfect sense as a platoon mate for Smith/Span in left field.

It might be a lot to ask for the Rays Front Office to get a deal like this done when the Padres (and everyone else that they will be negotiating with) know that the Rays knee-capped themselves in terms of leverage when they DFA’d Dickerson (four days and counting remain).

With that being said, the Rays could certainly use some positive PR, and bringing in a big power bat (with a rifle of a right arm), one who makes logical sense for the 2017 squad, would be a nice way to spin the narrative forward a bit. Whether it’s one-for-one or more, let’s get it done, and everyone wins.