Those excited about the Milwaukee Brewers’ outfield prospects will likely be on board with the move the team made Tuesday night.
Right fielder Hunter Renfroe – Milwaukee’s best offensive player of the past season – was traded to the Los Angeles Angels, possibly opening a way for the trio of Sal Frelick, Esteury Ruiz and Joey Wiemer to earn playing time at the major league level in 2023.
Coming back to the Brewers in the deal is a trio of pitchers: right-handers Janson Junk and Elvis Peguero and left-hander Adam Seminaris.
“Look, I think what it does is it gives a lot of guys opportunities here,” said general manager Matt Arnold. “The number of guys that will be in the mix here to compete – whether on opening day – is yet to be determined. We have a long way to go between now and then.
“But we’re excited about this group and feel very good about the mix of outfielders we have in the 2023 season.”
Renfroe, who turns 31 on Jan. 28, was offered a contract by the Brewers last week as he enters his final year of arbitration.
He is forecast to earn a deal worth more than $11 million, a number Milwaukee probably didn’t feel comfortable with considering how well Frelick, Ruiz and Wiemer performed in Class AAA Nashville in 2022.
Ruiz is already on the 40-man roster while Frelick and Wiemer have yet to make their Major League-debut. The Brewers also have Tyrone Taylor in the mix.
Arnold, when asked about the pay aspect of the trade, indicated it was more about strengthening a pitching group – particularly the rotation – that had been very top-heavy and lacking in depth last season.
“Honestly, from our perspective, it’s more about adding something to our organization and doing business from a position of strength,” he said. “Every time we have a conversation, we want to make sure you have the depth, and we felt like we had that depth in the outfield. And then also increasing our pitching depth was a good thing.
“We feel good about it from both perspectives.”
Despite a few stints on the injured list, Renfroe hit .255 with 29 home runs while driving for 72 runs with an OPS of .807, delivering a consistent bat in a lineup that was maddeningly inconsistent at times.
Now the Brewers will rely on a group of younger, less proven players to produce.
“That’s always the trade-off,” Arnold said. “Hunter has done a really good job for us this year. We saw glimpses of guys like Garrett Mitchell at the end of the season, and what Tyrone Taylor did for us this season, and there are several other guys in the mix that we am excited about.
“Obviously Hunter will be missed, but those guys and others in the higher levels of our system, we feel good about expanding our outfield in 2023 and beyond.”
The Angels will become Renfroe’s fifth team in five seasons. He came to the Brewers on December 1 in exchange for Jackie Bradley Jr. and minor league players Alex Binelas and David Hamilton.
Junk, who turns 27 on January 15, is 1-2 with an earned run average of 4.74 and a 1.42 whip in seven appearances (six starts) for the Angels in 2021 and 2022. He threw 21 total strike out in 24 ⅔ at bats.
In 16 appearances in Class AAA Salt Lake City in 2022 (15 starts), Junk was 1-7 with a 4.64 ERA and WHIP of 1.29 while striking out 69 in 73 ⅔ at bats.
“Janson Junk is a good young arm,” said Arnold. “Transferred from the Yankees to the Angels a few years ago. He has a four-pitch mix and is a solid young starter. We believe he has a chance to challenge for a spot in our rotation.
“He’s a guy who shows flashes in the (Angels) system and has moved quickly, so we’re excited for what he can bring as a contributor for innings in 2023.”
Peguero, who turns 26 on March 20, is 0-1 with a 9.16 ERA and WHIP of 1.93 in 16 relief appearances in 2021 and 2022. He struckout 12 batters in 19 ⅔ at bats.
He was 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA and WHIP of 1.06 in 38 appearances in Salt Lake City striking out 50 in 44 ⅓ innings.
“Elvis Peguero is another high-octane arm that we’re excited about with big things,” Arnold said of the 6-foot-5, 208-pounder, which averaged 96.4 mph on its sinker in 13 appearances with the Angels in 2022. “He did really well last year at Triple-A and showed good flashes and upside.”
Junk and Peguero both still have minor league options, which gives the Brewers additional flexibility in their pitching.
Seminaris, who turned 24 on Oct. 19, went 7-11 in 24 appearances (21 starts) with a 1.43 whip among the advanced Class A, Class AA and Class AAA levels in the Angels system last season. He struckout 97 batters in 101 ⅔ innings.
“Adam Seminaris is a young left-handed starter and another guy who moved quickly, a fifth rounder from the 2020 draft,” said Arnold. “He’s already reached Triple-A and has a mix of four to five pitches, giving him a variety of weapons to get guys out.
“Between the three of these guys, we feel really good about isolating the arms that we already (have) at the highest level.”
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This article originally appeared in Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Hunter Renfroe’s Brewers trade opens door for team’s best prospects