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Royals, OF Renfroe finalize two-year, $13M contract

Hunter Renfroe Hunter Renfroe - The Canadian Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Hunter Renfroe and the Kansas City Royals finalized a $13 million, two-year contract Tuesday, filling the biggest offensive hole for a club that has spent heavily in free agency in an attempt to go from worst to first in the AL Central.

The power-hitting outfielder, who turns 32 next month, will get a $5.5 million salary from Kansas City for the upcoming season. Renfroe's deal also includes a $7.5 million player option for 2025 with a $1 million buyout.

“They talent they've brought through the minor leagues and who they have in the major leagues right now is pretty spectacular,” Renfroe said, “and the guys they added this offseason made it a no-brainer for me. The way the Central is now, there is no doubt that we can contend in it.”

The Royals lost 106 games last season, when injuries punched holes in their lineup and their pitching staff was among the worst in baseball. General manager J.J. Picollo has spent heavily over the past few weeks in an attempt to build depth and remake both their rotation and the bullpen, landing a pair of starters along with some impact relievers.

The Royals signed right-hander Seth Lugo to a $45 million, three-year deal and fellow starter Michael Wacha to a $32 million, two-year pact, which filled two glaring holes in the rotation. They also signed left-hander Will Smith to a $5 million contract to close out games, and right-handed reliever Chris Stratton to a $4 million deal to hold onto leads.

Utility man Garrett Hampson was added for $2 million, and the Royals swung trades with Atlanta to land right-handed reliever Nick Anderson and right-handed starter Kyle Wright, who will be ready in 2025 after rehabbing from shoulder surgery.

“When we left Nashville (and the winter meetings), I'll say there was some disappointment because I didn't feel like we were making headway like we wanted to,” Picollo said. “But we look up 10 days after the winter meetings end, and you look at our team now versus 10 days ago — it's vastly different. It's a much deeper team. It's a more experienced team.”

Renfroe has primarily played right field, but he also can play center field and first base. He hit .233 with 20 homers and 60 RBIs this past season, when a hot start turned into a tough finish, while splitting time with the Angels and Reds.

He has a career .239 average with 177 homers and 454 RBIs in eight big league seasons, including time with San Diego (2016-19), Tampa Bay (2020), Boston (2021) and Milwaukee (2022). He also has 65 outfield assists.

“He's going to be a run-producer,” said Royals manager Matt Quatraro, who was on the Rays staff when Renfroe played for Tampa Bay. “He's going to try to execute every time he gets up there. That's one of the things Hunter won't say about himself, but he is one of the most competitive guys I've ever been around.”

The Royals designated right-hander Max Castillo for assignment to create space for Renfroe on the 40-man roster.

Castillo was acquired from Toronto on Aug. 2, 2022, along with infielder Samad Taylor in the trade that sent second baseman and outfielder Whit Merrifield to the Blue Jays. The 24-year-old Castillo was 0-3 with a 6.69 ERA in four starts and eight relief appearances with the Royals, including 0-1 with a 4.43 ERA in seven relief outings this year.