SAN DIEGO -- Padres general manager A.J. Preller said he wanted to give his offense a jolt this winter. He wasn't messing around.
The Padres and Rays swapped outfielders in a five-player trade that was finalized Friday evening. Tampa Bay sent Tommy Pham and Minor League infielder/pitcher Jake Cronenworth to San Diego, with Hunter Renfroe, Minor League infielder Xavier Edwards and a player to be named later going to Tampa Bay. Edwards is MLB Pipeline’s No. 72 overall prospect.
Rays get: OF Hunter Renfroe, 2B Xavier Edwards, player to be named
Padres get: OF Tommy Pham, SS/RHP Jake Cronenworth
What it means
If it wasn’t already clear, the Padres want to win. And they want to win now.
Preller, who has become notorious for clinging to his prospects, was willing to part with a high-upside piece like Edwards -- nine days after dealing 22-year-old Luis Urías to Milwaukee. The Padres’ long-term second-base job has never been more in flux, but that’s an issue for another day.
In the short term, Pham is on board for two more years (before he’s slated to hit free agency following the 2021 season). It's a win-now risk for the Padres, who are determined to make the leap toward contention in 2020.
“We think a lot about Hunter and Xavier Edwards, so we wanted to make sure we got a lot coming back,” Preller said. “We feel like we did. It's just about continuing to get better, and this deal makes us better."
Preller has pulled off three trades in the past nine days -- landing Trent Grisham and Zach Davies from Milwaukee on Nov. 27 and Jurickson Profar from the A's on Monday. All three deals cost the Padres some future value. But all three deals, plus the signing of left-hander Drew Pomeranz, inch them closer to their window of contention.
What the Padres get
A 31-year-old right-handed hitter, Pham batted .273/.369/.450 in 145 games for the Rays last season. His arrival in San Diego should go a long way toward solidifying the team's outfield and addressing its longstanding on-base woes. Pham owns a career .373 on-base percentage. The Padres haven’t had a qualifying player reach that mark in a single season since Chase Headley in 2012.
The Padres entered the week with a mix of five or six outfielders, none of whom could reasonably be considered an everyday starter. Wil Myers, Manuel Margot, Josh Naylor, Franchy Cordero and now Grisham all figured to vie for playing time. But Pham is the everyday outfield force Preller has been searching for.
“He'll definitely be in the mix in terms of setting the tone for our offense, being a producer, getting on base, grinding at-bats,” Preller said. “He's somebody that on a day-in, day-out basis can be a mainstay for us.”
Additionally, Cronenworth, 25, slots in as the Padres’ No. 17 prospect after being named the Rays’ Triple-A MVP last season. He batted .334/.429/.520 at Triple-A Durham last season. He also struck out nine over 7 1/3 innings, serving mostly as an opener and showcasing a 95 mph fastball without allowing an earned run. Right now, the Padres view Cronenworth as an infielder who could compete for a roster spot in the spring. But they’re open to seeing him on the mound as well.
“We'll get to know him better as we go,” Preller said. “It's nice having options. … Having players that are versatile, with a 26-man roster, all those things come into play.”
What they give up
Pham is a serious upgrade, but he doesn't come cheap. Renfroe, turning 28 in January, has topped the 25-homer mark in each of the last three seasons, including a career-high 33 in 2019. He’d become a legitimate power threat in San Diego, but his plate discipline never quite evolved. Renfroe batted .216/.289/.489 last season and floundered during the second half.
Because Renfroe won't be a free agent until after 2023, the Padres essentially sacrificed four years of Renfroe for two years of Pham. But the most enticing piece for the Rays might be Edwards. He’s a highly regarded middle-infield prospect, ranked No. 5 in the Padres’ system. A 20-year-old switch-hitting speedster, Edwards batted .322 with 34 stolen bases in 123 games last season between Class A Fort Wayne and Class A Advanced Lake Elsinore.
“It always helps when you have a deep system,” Preller said. “We feel very strongly that X-Edwards is going to be a very good player in the big leagues for a long time. ... Again, you've got to give up good players to get good players.”
With the departures of Urías and Edwards, the Padres suddenly have major questions to answer at second base. Profar might hold them over in 2020, but he’ll be a free agent after the season. The burden could then fall on prospects Owen Miller and CJ Abrams.
Pham is the everyday outfield piece that Preller has been searching for. And yet, it still doesn’t feel like he’s done dealing.
“We’re still working,” Preller said. “We’re still looking to improve our roster.”
The Winter Meetings come to San Diego next week, and the Padres figure to be one of the sport’s most active teams. They could use pitching help -- though it’s unclear whether they’ll lean toward the rotation or bullpen. And even with Pham and Grisham on board, there’s a case to be made that the Padres could use another outfielder.
At the very least, the offense could use another bat -- whether at catcher, second base or in the outfield. The top of the lineup -- some combination of Fernando Tatis Jr., Pham, Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer -- seems strong. But there are question marks behind that group.
In landing Pham, Preller delivered on one of his primary goals this winter. But he has work left to do.