Those excited about the Milwaukee Brewers’ outfield prospects are likely to be on board with the move the team made on Tuesday night.
Rightfielder Hunter Renfroe – Milwaukee’s best offensive player this past season – was traded to the Los Angeles Angels, potentially opening an avenue for 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,” general manager Matt Arnold said. “The number of guys that are in the mix here to compete – whether that’s on opening day – is still to be determined. We have a long way to go between now and then.
“But we’re excited about this group and feel really good about the mix of outfielders we have going into the 2023 season.”
Renfroe, who turns 31 on Jan. 28, was tendered a contract last week by the Brewers as he enters his final year of arbitration eligibility.
Projections have him earning a deal worth more than $11 million, a number Milwaukee likely wasn’t comfortable with considering how well Frelick, Ruiz and Wiemer performed at Class AAA Nashville in 2022.
Ruiz is already on the 40-man roster while Frelick and Wiemer have yet to make their major-league debuts. The Brewers also have holdover Tyrone Taylor in the mix. Another highly touted prospect, Garrett Mitchell, debuted in late August and is in line to be the team’s starting centerfielder in 2023.
Arnold, asked about the payroll aspect of the trade, indicated it was more about trying to bolster a pitching group – particularly the rotation – that was very top-heavy and without much depth this past season.
“Honestly, from our perspective, it really is more about adding to our organization and dealing from a position of strength,” he said. “Anytime we’re having a conversation, we want to make sure you have the depth, and we felt like we did have that depth in the outfield. And then to be able to augment our pitching depth was a good thing as well.
“We feel good about it from both perspectives.”
Despite a pair of stints in the injured list, Renfroe hit .255 with 29 home runs while driving in 72 runs with an OPS of .807, providing a consistent bat in a lineup that was at times maddeningly inconsistent.
Now, the brewers will be relying on a group of younger, less-proven players to produce.
“That’s always the trade-off,” Arnold said. “Hunter did a really, 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 ‘re excited about.
“Certainly Hunter is going to be missed, but those guys and others in the upper levels of our system we feel good about augmenting our outfield in 2023 and beyond.”
The Angels will be Renfroe’s fifth team in five seasons. He came to the Brewers last Dec. 1 in exchange for Jackie Bradley Jr. and minor-leagues Alex Binelas and David Hamilton.
Junk, who turns 27 on Jan 15, is 1-2 with a 4.74 earned run average and WHIP of 1.42 in seven appearances (six starts) for the Angels in 2021 and 2022. He struck out a total of 21 batters in 24 ⅔ innings.
In 16 outings at 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 innings.
“Janson Junk is a good young poor,” said Arnold. “Came over from the Yankees to the Angels a couple years ago. He’s got a four-pitch mix and is a solid young starter. We believe that he has a chance to compete for a spot in our rotation potentially.
“He’s a guy that’s shown flashes in the (Angels) system and has moved fast, so we’re excited about 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 struck out 12 in 19 ⅔ innings.
He was 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA and WHIP of 1.06 in 38 appearances at Salt Lake City with 50 strikeouts in 44 ⅓ innings.
“Elvis Peguero is another high-octane arm that we’re excited about with big stuff,” Arnold said of the 6-foot-5, 208-pounder, who averaged 96.4 mph on his sinker in 13 appearances with the Angels in 2022. “He did a really nice job last year at Triple-A and has shown good flashes and upside.”
Junk and Peguero both have minor-league options remaining, giving the Brewers additional flexibility with their pitching.
Seminaris, who turned 24 on Oct. 19, went 7-11 in 24 appearances (21 starts) with a WHIP of 1.43 between the advanced Class A, Class AA and Class AAA levels in the Angels system this past season. He struck out 97 in 101 ⅔ innings.
“Adam Seminaris is a young left-handed starter and another guy who’s moved quickly, a fifth-rounder from the 2020 draft,” said Arnold. “He’s already gotten to Triple-A and has a four- to five-pitch mix, giving him a variety of weapons to be able to get guys out.
“Between the three of these guys, we feel really good about insulating the arms that we already (have) at the major-league level.”