Royals add big run producer in Renfroe, but aren't done yet

December 19th, 2023

KANSAS CITY – Pitching has been a priority for the Royals this offseason, but they haven’t forgotten about the need to upgrade their offense heading into 2024.

They've found the outfield bat they had been looking for in . Kansas City and the 31-year-old slugger on Tuesday finalized a one-year deal that includes a player option for 2025. A source told that the deal will guarantee Renfroe $5.5 million for 2024, and the player option -- worth $7.5 million -- includes a $1 million buyout, meaning Renfroe can make $6.5 million total next year if he declines his option. He can also earn $500,000 in performance bonuses each season as part of the deal.

The Renfroe announcement came a day after the Royals finalized a one-year deal with free-agent pitcher Michael Wacha, who also has a player option for 2025. And now the Royals have officially signed six free agents this offseason and met several objectives they had this winter: Add to the rotation, add to the bullpen and add an impact bat.

The Royals have done their heavy lifting before Christmas, but it doesn’t mean they’re completely done. They’d still like to add depth to the team, whether that’s through the bullpen or an infielder, likely a lefty who can play multiple positions.

“We’re in a really healthy spot right now,” general manager J.J. Picollo said. “I know fans are excited about it. But it doesn’t mean that we're going to pack our bags and show up in Arizona in 56 days. We’ve still got work to do. But we’re excited right now.”

Renfroe said Kansas City has always appealed to him because of what he’s heard about the organization through former Royals who became his teammates, such as Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain and James Shields. Once Renfroe saw the additions the Royals had made before he agreed to his deal, it made it all the more exciting to join.

“Any time the ownership puts an exclamation point on the team and is like, ‘Hey, go out and spend some money, go out there and put a better product on the field and help this team move forward,’ I think that’s huge,” Renfroe said. “I was part of the Padres organization when we were growing and moving forward, and all of a sudden, we signed guys like Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado. I’m not putting myself in there with Manny Machado, but those types of guys, what they brought to the clubhouse, I was able to learn from it.”

Now Renfroe is going to be looked at as one of those veteran voices in the Royals clubhouse. He’s played with five different teams in the past four seasons after debuting with the Padres in 2016. Over parts of eight big league seasons, Renfroe has a .239/.300/.478 slash line and has shown enticing power with 177 career home runs. He hit 31 homers with Boston in 2021, followed by 29 with the Brewers in ‘22.

Renfroe started this past season with the Angels before being moved to the Reds through waivers. Renfroe slashed .233/.297/.416 with 20 home runs and 60 RBIs in 140 games split between the two teams.

The Royals believe there’s more power to come from Renfroe -- similar to his 33-homer season in 2019 with the Padres -- and targeted him because of his right-handedness and slugging ability. He can play both right and left field and will fit into the Royals’ mix next season with outfielders MJ Melendez, Drew Waters and Nelson Velázquez.

Renfroe became an early offseason target for the Royals because the outfield production was a major hole last year: Kansas City’s outfield ranked fifth-worst in baseball in slugging percentage (.393) and second-worst in wRC+ (83). Adding in Renfroe, getting Vinnie Pasquantino back from injury and seeing more growth from their young hitters make the Royals believe their lineup will be stronger in 2024.

“Just his presence in the lineup alone is going to help our lineup,” Picollo said. “But he’s also been a run producer. He’s been able to knock runs in throughout his career. To add somebody like Hunter gets us deeper and more production out of those corner spots. So I think he’s going to fit really well.”

Renfroe’s defense shouldn’t go overlooked, either. His 65 outfield assists since his debut rank second-most in the Majors behind Starling Marte (71) in that span. Since 2020, Renfroe has ranked in the 90th percentile or higher in arm strength each season.

Just like on the pitching side, Kansas City has wanted to bring in a veteran hitter to help the club’s young core develop. Part of the appeal of joining the Royals was their young core, so Renfroe can’t wait to help.

“How can we go from a young group of guys, a very talented group of guys, [to understanding] how to play 162 games?” Renfroe said. “How to go about the struggles of not doing very well to the struggles of, ‘Hey, you’re on the highest of highs, and how can you ride that rollercoaster of emotions?’ That's one of the hardest things for a baseball player to understand when you’re young: Last month, I was doing so well and dominating. And then all of a sudden, this game is absolutely dominating me? What do I need to do to better myself and move forward?”