Shortly before the MLB lockout began, the Milwaukee Brewers completed a trade with the Boston Red Sox, acquiring outfielder Hunter Renfroe in exchange for Jackie Bradley Jr. and a couple of prospects. That was apparently not the only offer on the table.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Brewers were dangling JBJ in trade talks to everyone and were trying to find a partner. They nearly had one north of the border with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Brewers were trying to shed Bradley’s contract and add a veteran to their outfield mix. The reported offer on the table from the Blue Jays was JBJ for outfielder Randal Grichuk in a straight up, one-for-one trade.
The Milwaukee Brewers could’ve traded Jackie Bradley Jr.without losing any prospects, but took the Renfroe deal. Why?
The one for one swap of Bradley and Grichuk is interesting to think about. Grichuk has a low-OBP and higher strikeout profile, similar to Renfroe, and acquiring him wouldn’t have cost two solid prospects in Alex Binelas and David Hamilton.
Both Grichuk and Renfroe will be in their age-30 seasons in 2022.
So why did the Brewers take the deal with the Red Sox that cost the prospects on top? A couple of reasons.
Firstly, Renfroe had a much better season in 2021. Renfroe hit .259/.315/.501 with 31 homers and a 112 OPS+ while Grichuk hit .241/.281/.423 with 22 homers and a 89 OPS+. The ceiling is higher with Renfroe offensively, adding the power the Brewers need more consistently than what Grichuk could do.
Secondly, the contracts played a big factor. The Brewers wanted to move on from Bradley’s $9.5MM salary in 2022 and $8MM buyout for 2023. Grichuk signed a contract extension with Toronto a few years ago and is under contract for the next two seasons at $10.33MM per season. So, financially, the Brewers really wouldn’t be in a better spot. Sure, Grichuk likely wouldn’t be as big of a black hole in the lineup, but still likely not worth the money the Brewers are paying.
Meanwhile, Renfroe has two more seasons of arbitration and is slated to earn around $7MM in 2022. Renfroe not only gives the team a boost on offense as he will effectively replace Avisail Garcia in right field, but he also gives them some financial relief and wiggle room as he’ll cost less than JBJ.
In the end, it made more sense for Stearns to move the two prospects to get a bigger upgrade for the big league roster and the extra financial space and that’s the move he made. The Grichuk trade makes for an interesting what-if, however.