2 Newly Available Bats that May Interest the Twins
Image courtesy of Kevin Jairaj and Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY SportsTwins fans know all too well that just because a player is waived by one team doesn't mean he can't make a major impact for another one. David Ortiz lamentations aside, there are plenty of more recent examples to illustrate the point.
Two offseasons ago, the Twins filled a need at first base by grabbing C.J. Cron after he was placed on waivers by Tampa Bay. While he was slowed by a thumb injury in 2019, Cron lived up to his rep as a quality slugger, playing a key role for an offense that set the all-time home run record. More recently, Minnesota plucked reliever Matt Wisler off waivers from Seattle last October; Wisler went on to become a huge asset and is one of their entrenched bullpen fixtures going forward.
The two players we'll cover here already passed through waivers, unlike the two above who were claimed. This only underscores the fact that they are available, and probably at a pretty low cost.
Let's take a look at Hunter Renfroe and Renato Nunez.
Hunter Renfroe, OF
Waived by Tampa Bay
The Rays have a history of waiving proven offensive producers with marginal defensive value. Cron, mentioned above, is one example. Corey Dickerson is another. Renfroe is a little less surprising than either of them, because he's coming off a rough season, but still – we're talking about a 28-year-old former top prospect with a .486 slugging percentage in the majors.
Before his down year in 2020, in which he slashed .156/.252/.393 for Tampa, Renfroe belted 26, 26, and 33 home runs over his first three MLB seasons with the Padres. Most critically: he's a right-handed hitter with a career .258/.339/.573 line against left-handed pitchers. Even amid his struggles in 2020, Renfroe still went deep five times in 51 plate appearances against southpaws. In 2019 he had a .906 OPS against them.
His clear strength would offset what was a clear weakness for the Twins in 2020. They slashed just .236/.309/.349 against left-handed pitching, and that was WITH Cruz posting a 1.456 OPS versus lefties. Renfroe is certainly no Cruz, but he'd be a good fit as a rotational player capable of filling in at DH as well as left field and right field (where the starters will presumably both be left-handed regardless of how the Twins decide on Rosario).
As a righty power hitter with a somewhat depressed market, Renfroe looks like a nice option for the Twins. But he's not the only player with such a profile to have recently become available.
Renato Núñez, 1B/DH
Waived by Baltimore
Like Renfroe, Núñez had a big offensive season in 2019, piling up 31 home runs and 90 RBIs for the Orioles as a 25-year-old. But unlike Renfroe, he didn't tail off in 2020 – Núñez homered 12 times in 52 games this season, putting up a career-high .256/.324/.492 slash line while splitting time between first base and DH.
His price tag wouldn't have been all that high in Year 1 of arbitration (likely in the $3 million range) but the rebuilding Orioles understandably have other priorities than a defensively limited, impatient power hitter. Núñez is not the kind of player who will be in high demand, but he could fit the Twins' needs fairly well if they move on from Cruz. He's an inexpensive right-handed hitter who is in the heart of his prime, turning 27 next April. In his age 25 and 26 seasons, he has hit 43 home runs with a .469 slugging percentage in 203 games.
There are two things that make Núñez less appealing than Renfroe for the Twins:
- Núñez doesn't play the outfield, so he'd be more of a straight-up Cruz replacement at DH, capable of filling in occasionally at first. (He can play a little third base but he's not strong there.)
- While he swings righty, Núñez hasn't specialized against mashing left-handed pitching. Eleven of his 12 home runs in 2020 came against righties, and he has a better career OPS against RHP.
These hold-ups aside, Núñez is a talented player at the peak of his athleticism, and bringing him aboard would add some reliable power production cheaply while enabling the Twins to redirect their savings elsewhere.
In an offseason landscape full of intriguing possibilities, we can add a couple more to the list, with the Winter Meetings suddenly just a week away.
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