Rays land Margot, prospect from SD for Pagán

February 9th, 2020

ST. PETERSBURG -- The Rays hosted their annual Fan Fest at Tropicana Field on Saturday, and it appeared the roster was set as the team got ready to start Spring Training workouts on Wednesday.

But just hours after Fan Fest concluded, the Rays made their second significant -- and surprising -- trade with the Padres this offseason, sending closer to San Diego in exchange for outfielder and catcher/outfield prospect Logan Driscoll.

“Emilio was obviously a huge part of our team last year and would’ve been a huge part this year,” said Rays general manager Erik Neander. “Trading away someone like that probably gives an idea of how we feel about Manuel Margot.”

Neander said the club had pursued Margot throughout the offseason and had tried to acquire him with prospects, but the Padres continued to ask for a Major League player.

By trading Pagán, who led the team with 20 saves in 2019, Neander and the Rays are showing a lot of confidence in their bullpen depth. Nick Anderson, who was acquired in a Trade Deadline deal with the Marlins, was one of the best relievers in the Majors last season and could now see an expanded role, particularly in the ninth inning. Diego Castillo, Colin Poche and Oliver Drake are also expected to be relied on more.

“Anytime you say you’re comfortable with pitching, it usually comes back to bite you,” Neander said. “But I think we felt more comfortable with our depth and our options on the pitching side than we did on the position-player side by comparison. And to be really clear, we weren’t uncomfortable on either side.”

Aside from the plethora of options in the bullpen, the Rays are also hoping José Alvarado and Chaz Roe have bounce-back seasons. Alvarado was one of the top relievers in the American League in 2018 but struggled with command in ‘19 before an oblique injury ended his season in August. Peter Fairbanks is another player who could get some added opportunities with Pagán no longer on the team.

Meanwhile, Margot gives the Rays another outfield option heading into the 2020 season. Margot, who turned 25 in September, has already appeared in three Major League seasons and has flashed an elite glove in center field.

Last season, Margot finished with 11 Outs Above Average, which ranked seventh in baseball among qualified outfielders. Kevin Kiermaier led the AL with 17 OAA, giving the Rays two elite defenders at the position.

“We can very comfortably call [Margot] an impact defender and [he] uses his speed extremely well on both sides of the ball,” Neander said. “He has three years of Major League experience but it’s also important to remember that he’s only 25 years old.”

Heading into camp, Margot’s role is still a bit unclear, but it’s likely that he’ll platoon with Kiermaier in center field, while also being capable of playing at the corners. Though Margot hit .234 last season, he had plenty of success against southpaws, finishing with a .886 OPS in 120 plate appearances.

Driscoll was the 73rd overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft by the Padres and hit three home runs in 39 games in Class A.

Margot’s arrival creates a bit of a logjam in the outfield heading into Spring Training. The Rays are going to rely heavily on Hunter Renfroe, Austin Meadows, Margot and Kiermaier, while also giving Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and possibly Brandon Lowe a look in the outfield.

The player likely to be affected the most by the Margot arrival is Randy Arozarena, who was acquired from the Cardinals earlier this offseason. Before Saturday night’s deal, Arozarena was set to compete for the backup center-fielder job, but that now appears to be heading to Margot. Arozarena, however, does give the Rays another quality depth piece in case of injury.

“Looking at our outfield mix, we want to be deep, we want to be flexible and we want to have a lot of options,” Neander said. “Really strong mix of lefties and righties and guys that bring different skill sets to the party. It will probably require some egos to be checked and a team-first mentality but our guys have that. … We feel really good about where we stand right now.”