San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays

Padres continue win-now approach with trade for Tommy Pham

The San Diego Padres continued their win-now approach this offseason by acquiring Tommy Pham from the Tampa Bay Rays. It may have come at a steep price.

The San Diego Padres have already been aggressive this winter in trying to take the leap to contender status in 2020. New manager Jayce Tingler will take over a team that has already signed top reliever Drew Pomeranz and has traded for starting pitcher Zach Davies and outfielder Trent Grisham.

The Padres have made another such trade in acquiring outfielder Tommy Pham from the Tampa Bay Rays, along with two-way prospect Jake Cronenworth. In exchange, the Rays will receive outfielder Hunter Renfroe and infield prospect Xavier Edwards. The soon-to-be 32-year-old Pham is a solid addition for San Diego — he posted a 3.7 WAR in 2019 and has a 13.2 WAR over the past three seasons. Last year, he posted an .818 OPS with 21 home runs and 33 doubles.

Yet while Pham is a nice player, his acquisition comes at a significant cost in more ways than one. This will increase the Padres’ payroll by approximately $5 million in 2020, as Pham is projected to make $8.6 million in arbitration according to MLBTradeRumors.com, while Renfroe is only projected to make $3.4 million.

Renfroe also is a significant piece to give up. The soon-to-be 28-year-old outfielder doesn’t get on base much, but he’s combined for 85 home runs over the past three seasons, including 33 in 2019. Often overlooked about Renfroe is his defense — he played all three outfield positions in 2019, posted a 1.5 defensive WAR, and was worth 11 defensive runs saved.

Then there’s Edwards, who according to MLB.com is the No. 5 prospect in a deep San Diego system and No. 72 in all of MLB. Though he’s likely a couple years away from the majors, he batted over .300 at both A and High-A ball in 2019, and though he doesn’t have much power, he’s a solid defender with lots of speed. Perhaps they found him expendable with Fernando Tatis, Jr. settling in at shortstop.

As for Cronenworth, he’s already about to turn 26 but had a nice season at AAA, slashing .334/.429/.520. He also pitched seven and a third scoreless innings. Perhaps he could compete for a bench role with the Padres in 2020.

So, who came out better in this deal? Overall, Pham is an upgrade over Renfroe in the outfield, so the Padres are a better team right now. However, Edwards was quite a piece to give up for a 1.1 WAR upgrade (according to 2019 numbers). The fact that the Padres are dipping into their farm system to improve the major league roster, along with the fact that they took on an older and more expensive player, again shows that they’re trying to win now.

Meanwhile, the Rays accomplished their perpetual goal of getting younger and cheaper. In addition to saving about $5 million, they got an outfielder who can help them right now and a middle infielder for the future. So, it appears that the Padres are winners in the short term, but in a few years there’s a good chance we’ll say that the Rays won this trade.

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