When Wisconsin native Alex Binelas was drafted by his hometown Brewers in July, his whole family went mad. Suddenly it was easy for them to dream that they could one day watch Binelas wander the infield of American Family Field, located just 15 miles from the family home in Oak Creek, a suburb of Milwaukee. Binelas’ grandfather even ran outside and threw in a Brewers jersey he had in his car.
It took less than five months for those plans to change. On the night of December 1, as the baseball lockdown approached, Binelas was traded to the Red Sox under a four-player contract that sent Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers and Jackie Bradley Jr. to Boston. The decision shocked Binelas and his family, who were enjoying a quiet Wednesday evening at home.
As a result, the Brewers were no longer the family team. Binelas ‘grandfather has already ordered gear from the Red Sox to replace his brewers’ items, which either go to a box or go to charity. Even the draft day jersey will be stored.
“He’s one of my biggest supporters,” Binelas said. “He’s a real Boston Red Sox fan.”
Binelas was watching ESPN with his father, Pete, around 10:15 p.m. when he received a call from an unknown number. Thinking it wasn’t important, Binelas let him go to voicemail. Once he listened to the message and heard the voice of a Brewers executive, he immediately called back and was told he was traded.
The chaotic hours that followed included a phone etiquette with Binelas’ agency and family members as well as conversations with Pete, a former professional basketball player in Greece who knows what it’s like to change. team. Binelas’ mother Amy disbelieved the news at first. When that sank, she was upset that her son didn’t have the chance to potentially play close to home as a big player. Binelas said the whole family was both shocked and saddened in the hours after the deal was struck.
“I’m 21, six months into the pro prom, and it’s already a big change for me,” he said.
As Binelas began to get excited about his new opportunity, the melancholy quickly dissipated. Almost immediately, tweets and direct messages from Red Sox fans started flooding his Twitter feed, making him feel welcome.
“I’ve been to a lot of Brewers games,” Binelas said. “It sucks on that point, to be traded away from the hometown team, but this opportunity with Boston, being part of a big league trade for a big name like Hunter Renfroe, it (creates) endless opportunities that I will have. “
While the timing of the deal was shocking for Binelas, the destination was not. As the University of Louisville’s top draft prospect, he has met the Red Sox on several occasions, both last fall and this spring. Binelas believed there was a chance he would be drafted by the Red Sox.
“I felt like meeting Boston was my best meeting,” he said. “I felt like I had the best connection with Boston.”
Eleven picks before the Brewers took on Binelas, the Red Sox took on Tyler McDonough, another North Carolina State College fielder. Binelas, who once was to be a first-round pick, has retired due to a poor start to the junior season. In his first 13 games in 2021, the powerful Binelas only touched 0.137 (7 v 49) with zero homers. He got hot in mid-March and finished the 50-game season averaging .256, 19 home runs and an impressive .968 OPS.
Binelas attributed this subsidence to rust. He broke the hamatous bone in his right hand in Game 2 of his second season in 2020, then was unable to return after COVID-19 caused college season to end prematurely. Getting back on the pitch after more than a year of little action has been difficult.
“If I went straight there and played the first 13 games of the season, I think I would hit better with the opposite hand,” he joked. “I can’t even make it up what happened. It was just awful.
“I haven’t played a baseball game for over 400 days,” he added. “I got hit in the fall so I didn’t have a fall scrum. I haven’t been faced with a live pitch for over 400 days. After being thrown in there right away I was just a little rusty and people kind of wrote me off after those first 13 games. Not everyone could remember those first 13 games, not the 37 after them. I used it for fuel.
Binelas brought the strong end of his university career straight to the pros. He hit .309 with nine homers and a .973 OPS in 36 games split between rookie ball and single-A. With Single-A Carolina, he was excellent in 29 games, totaling 1,014 OPS. Binelas’ strong start in the pros only increased Boston’s interest ahead of the draft.
“I didn’t want to take a batting presence for granted,” Binelas said. “You get a lot of drummers playing every day. You get three, four, or five at-hits each day and it’s easy to throw the bats away and not get locked in. I was just blocking out every at-bat.
In Binelas, the Red Sox see a projectable power bat with the potential to rise quickly through the system, although his defensive house is unclear. The 21-year-old can play both third and first base, but may have to move to the outfield as he advances.
“A powerful left-hander,” said Chaim Bloom, general manager of the Red Sox. “He plays in both corners of the infield. But the bat is really his calling card. A good hitter with really special power. Obviously this is only the start of his professional journey, but he has made a great start and really showed a lot in his acclimatization to the professional ball. A very nice and powerful left-handed bat to integrate into the system.
With his Brewers gear now stowed away, Binelas said he was excited to join the Red Sox in Fort Myers in February. Although he doesn’t yet know anyone in the organization on a personal level, he already appreciates the possibility of making waves in a new place.
“I’m just really excited to be a part of this organization because it’s obvious Boston wanted me to be a part of this profession,” he said. “It means a lot to me. I will do anything for someone who believes in me and obviously Boston believes in me.
10 observations from last week in baseball:
1. Longtime baseball executive Roland Hemond who died at the age of 92 on Monday was a mentor to many, including Dave Dombrowski. Rest in peace.
2. I don’t put much importance on who Seiya Suzuki follows (and doesn’t follow) on Instagram. I’d be, however, shocked if the Red Sox didn’t seriously try to sign him after the lockout ends.
3. Interestingly enough, the Red Sox have yet to complete their coaching staff. They have two vacancies (a batting instructor’s role and a first baseman) and could have another if bench coach Will Venable is hired to manage the A’s.
4. Should the Red Sox really be worried about staying away from the free agent frenzy of early winter? It seems only the bad teams got better. Even the Blue Jays, who signed Kevin Gausman, are probably worse off with Robbie Ray and Marcus Semien signing elsewhere.
5. The Red Sox have improved their clubhouse by reuniting with Jackie Bradley Jr. and Rich Hill. It is indisputable.
6. Good to read Terry Francona is doing well. He is expected to return to manage the Guardians in 2022.
seven. The only deal I think the Red Sox should have made? Steven Matz for four years, $ 44 million. And I heard they were very close.
8. This Justin Verlander’s contractual situation (which was resolved on Monday) is strange.
9. Kudos to Red Sox PR boss Kevin Gregg on his new gig with the Phillies. Kevin has become a trusted friend in recent years. Philly gets a (back) voucher.
ten. Fenway’s recap is back. Check out the latest episode of our Red Sox podcast here.
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