Revisiting Renfroe, Margot trades to Rays
SAN DIEGO -- Over the weekend, Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot won a pennant in San Diego. Now, they'll play for the World Series title.
Padres fans probably began envisioning those moments in September 2016, when Margot and Renfroe, two of the organization's most highly touted prospects at the time, were promoted on the same day.
It didn't exactly unfold the way anyone expected. Margot and Renfroe were shipped to Tampa Bay in two separate deals last offseason, though they still have their share of fans in San Diego -- including Padres general manager A.J. Preller.
"They're really good people," Preller said. "They're guys that you root for. To see them go out and contribute to a winning club ... it's been fun to watch."
Of course, even though the Rays are four wins from the franchise's first World Series title, the Padres feel that they did extremely well in those trades. So let's revisit the two deals, with the benefit of a season's worth of hindsight:
Dec. 6, 2019: Padres trade OF Hunter Renfroe, IF prospect Xavier Edwards and IF prospect Esteban Quiroz to Rays for OF Tommy Pham, IF Jake Cronenworth
What the Rays got: Wary of the two years remaining on Pham's deal, Tampa Bay hoped to bolster its outfield for the long term by adding Renfroe. But Renfroe struggled in 2020, slashing .156/.252/.393. Barring a major turnaround from Renfroe, the Rays' success in the deal hinges on the performance of Xavier Edwards, a speedy, line-drive hitting middle infielder, who is currently the No. 4 prospect in their system, according to MLB Pipeline.
What the Padres got: Pham's season was marred by injuries, though he returned to post a .375/.400/.458 slash line in the postseason. He still has one year remaining before free agency, but Preller’s real coup was adding Cronenworth, who suddenly projects as his second baseman of the future. Cronenworth had a .285/.354/.477 slash line while serving as an elite defensive option at multiple infield spots. He's the National League Rookie of the Year Award favorite.
The verdict: If the Rays win the World Series, it'd be hard to call this deal a loss. Renfroe played a part, hitting a grand slam against Toronto in the Wild Card Series and making a pair of excellent catches in the American League Championship Series. Still, the Padres have to be considered winners. Despite the injuries, Pham outperformed Renfroe, and Cronenworth answered the team's long-term second-base question. It's still possible Edwards has a solid big league career as a middle-infield on-base threat. But the Padres already have one of those: Cronenworth.
Feb. 8, 2020: Padres trade OF Manuel Margot, C prospect Logan Driscoll to Rays for RHP Emilio Pagán
What the Rays got: Margot emerged as a strong option in a deep group of Tampa Bay outfielders, recording a .269/.327/.352 slash line in 159 plate appearances. He played all three outfield spots and has been a regular in the playoffs. In the ALCS, Margot was a standout, homering three times and making one of the best catches in Petco Park history in Game 2.
What the Padres got: Pagán was a dominant closer in Tampa Bay last season, but it took him some time to find his footing with San Diego. Pagán finished the year with a 4.50 ERA. But after a poor start, he was one of San Diego’s most effective relievers down the stretch, posting a 2.57 ERA and a 0.43 WHIP in September. Pagán then pitched scoreless ball in five postseason outings of one inning apiece.
The verdict: The Rays needed an outfielder and had some pitching depth. The Padres needed a reliever and had some outfield depth. It was a classic baseball swap. Judging solely by their first seasons, Margot was slightly more valuable. But it's hard to envision much playing time for him in an outfield that features Pham, Wil Myers and Trent Grisham. Plus, Pagán has an extra year of control and is on the Padres' ledger through 2023. Margot will hit free agency after the '22 season. Ultimately, the verdict here is fairly simple: Both teams addressed an area of need and got better, without getting much worse in an area of strength.
"Those are the kinds of trades you want to make, where you're getting what you feel like your team wants, in guys that are contributing," Preller said. "With Cronenworth, Pham, Pagan, we felt like we got some guys that contributed for us.
"But ultimately, you want the guys that you move on, that they're going to go out and contribute as well, so that both teams win. It's been nice to see that. Wish those guys a lot of luck here going forward."