The Red Sox made a couple significant transactions just before MLB’s lockout-induced transaction freeze kicked in on Wednesday night, reuniting with left-handed starter Rich Hill on a one-year pact and reacquiring outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., along with minor league infielders Alex Binelas and David Hamilton, in exchange for outfielder Hunter Renfroe:
The #RedSox today signed LHP Rich Hill to a one-year contract for the 2022 season. pic.twitter.com/4BRUoxA7Jk— Red Sox (@RedSox) December 2, 2021
The #RedSox today acquired OF Jackie Bradley Jr. along with minor league INF Alex Binelas and David Hamilton from the Milwaukee Brewers, in exchange for OF Hunter Renfroe.— Red Sox (@RedSox) December 2, 2021
Hill’s contract features a base salary of $5 million, along with up to $3 million in incentives for the frequently-injured lefty.
Free-agent LHP Rich Hill has signed a one-year, $5M contract with the Red Sox, source tells @TheAthletic. Additional incentives: $250K each for 110, 120 innings; $500K each for 130, 140; $750K each for 150, 160. Hill threw 158 2/3 innings last season. First with deal: @alexspeier— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 2, 2021
This will be the seventh time Hill, a Milton, Massachusetts native, has signed with the Red Sox. He signed three straight one-year, minor league deals with the team from 2010-12, rejoined the Sox on a minor league deal in 2014, was procedurally released and re-signed by the team at the end of spring training, returned to Boston down the stretch in 2015 after a successful stint in independent ball, and now will return again for his age-42 season.
Hill has had one of the most interesting career arcs in MLB history, turning into one of the majors’ top starters upon his return to the Red Sox at the age of 35 in 2015. Since then, he’s posted a 3.15 ERA with 734 strikeouts and 218 walks over 663.2 innings between the Red Sox, Athletics, Dodgers, Twins, Rays, and Mets. A variety of minor injuries, most notably chronic blisters, held him back during the height of that arc, but he was still a major part of the Dodgers’ rotation from 2016-19, reaching the playoffs for four straight years and pitching in the World Series in 2017-18.
While Hill’s 103 ERA+ between the Rays and Mets in 2021 was his lowest since the 2013 season, he actually posted his highest totals in starts (31) and innings pitched (158.2) since he made 32 starts and threw 195 innings as a 27-year-old in 2007. He should add a solid veteran presence to a restructured Red Sox rotation that also features two other new additions in James Paxton and Michael Wacha.
The Red Sox also shook up their outfield on Wednesday, dealing Renfroe — their primary starting right fielder in 2021 — to the Brewers and bringing back Bradley Jr., who was their starting center fielder from 2013-20. The deal seemingly frees up Kiké Hernández to return to more of a utility role after he served as Boston’s primary center fielder in 2021, and while it could open up a corner outfield spot for 25-year-old Jarren Duran, it’s possible that the Red Sox will look to add another outfielder via trade or free agency whenever the lockout ends.
Renfroe was one of the Red Sox’ best offensive contributors in 2021, hitting .259/.315/.501 with 31 homers and 96 RBI. But he also made 12 errors, and with J.D. Martinez entrenched as Boston’s DH, it was playing the field or bust for him with the Red Sox. He’ll replace Avisaíl García, who recently signed with the Marlins, in the Brewers’ outfield.
Bradley Jr., who had a .732 OPS over eight seasons in Boston, will hope his familiar stomping grounds enable him to bounce back after he posted a career-worst .163/.236/.261 in his lone season with the Brewers. While he was often relegated to the corner spots to accommodate Lorenzo Cain with Milwaukee, Bradley Jr. is still an elite defensive center fielder and posted nine defensive runs saved in 89 games at the position in 2021.
Boston also received two solid prospects as they took on Bradley’s $11 million salary for 2022. The 21-year-old Binelas, a left-handed hitter who was Milwaukee’s third-round pick out of Louisville in the 2018 draft, hit .309/.390/.583 with nine homers in 36 games between Low-A and rookie ball in 2021 while playing first and third base. He was ranked as the Brewers’ No. 17 prospect by MLB Pipeline.
Hamilton, 24, was the Brewers’ eighth-round pick out of Texas in 2018. The left-handed hitter slashed .258/.341/.419 with eight homers between High-A and Double-A in 2021 while playing both middle-infield positions. He opened eyes in the Arizona Fall League, hitting .293/.453/.463 in 14 games. MLB Pipeline ranked him as the Brewers’ No. 16 prospect.