The San Diego Padres have acquired reliever Emilio Pagan from the Tampa Bay Rays. In exchange, they’re sending centerfielder Manuel Margot and prospect Logan Driscoll to Tampa Bay, per The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino (via Twitter). The deal is official, per MLB.com’s Juan Toribio.
Both teams add strength to strength here. The Rays get an elite defensive centerfielder to back up one one of the league’s best in that department, while the Padres give their already-strong bullpen another weapon to lock down the ends of ballgames. Both teams, interestingly, are addressing an area with this trade to which they’ve already devoted resources this winter.
Turning to the players, Pagan departs one strong bullpen to join another in San Diego, where he’ll team up with incumbent closer Kirby Yates and 21-year-old flamethrower Andres Munoz. The Padres will be his fourth team in as many seasons after year-long stints with the Mariners, A’s, and Rays. Last season was his most successful to date, however, as he notched a 12.3 K/9 versus 1.7 BB/9 in his 70 innings as a Ray. San Diego seems to value his ability to retire both right and left-handed hitters, citing Pagan’s matching .179 BAA in their press release.
The Friars have dedicated quite a bit of resources to a bullpen that now looks like a genuine asset. They earlier re-signed Craig Stammen to a two-year, $9MM deal and convinced Drew Pomeranz to give San Diego a second go-round with a surprising four-year, $34MM commitment. The Padres also brought in former San Francisco Giant Pierce Johnson after a successful stint overseas.
Pagan’s one season in Tampa Bay came after being acquired from Oakland in the three-way deal that landed Jurickson Profar in Oakland and sent Brock Burke, Yoel Espinal, Kyle Bird, Eli White, and international draft pool money to the Rangers. The Rays also received a draft pick in that deal. Pagan served as the Rays de facto closer last season, notching 20 saves in 66 games with a 2.31 ERA/3.30 FIP.
For their part, Tampa adds an elite defensive centerfielder in Margot who may yet have another offensive gear in him as he nears his age-25 season. Margot hit an underwhelming .234/.304/.387 last year, in line with his career mark of .248/.301/.394 – but by just about any measure, Margot ranks among the game’s very best at traversing the centerfield grass. Last season, he scored 6 DRS, 5.8 UZR, and 11 Outs Above Average. Margot provides the Rays with defensive certainty up the middle should Kevin Kiermaier again struggle to stay healthy.
The Rays have made of a winter of adding outfielders by way of relatively surprising multi-player deals. Margot joins Hunter Renfroe as San Diego expats now based in Tampa. The Rays also dealt top pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore to St. Louis for Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena, who now figures to start the year in Triple-A. Austin Meadows, of course, remains on hand as an everyday player in the outfield.
For the Rays in particular, the move represents another somewhat disorienting instance of doubling down on a particular area. Their earlier trade for Martinez, who figures to spend much of his time at designated hitter, came shortly after the signing of Yoshi Tsutsugo, another prospective candidate to spend time at designated hitter.
Here again, the addition of Margot could be seen as an over-saturation of Tampa’s centerfield pool, where they’ve already added Arozarena. The Rays have reportedly been after Margot for some time, however, and though Kiermaier remains the unequivocal starter in center, they view Margot as an “impact defender,” per Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
Driscoll was the 73rd overall pick of the Padres in the 2019 draft. His ability to play both catcher and outfield certainly marks him as a prospect of some intrigue. In 39 games at Low-A in 2019, Driscoll hit .268/.340/.458.