As it stands, the Cubs have reportedly been in fervent pursuit of exploring deals for much of their roster, including superstars like Bryant. Needless to say, the length of Bryant’s remaining service time would have a giant impact on what the Wrigleyville side would receive back in a trade, though the third base market joins the delayed grievance ruling as the biggest factors in any trade plans the Cubs might have for Bryant. Sharma notes that the Cubs are figuring that teams who miss out on Anthony Rendon or Josh Donaldson could come calling about Bryant, which would leave Chicago discussing Bryant with at least three of such teams as the Dodgers, Braves, Rangers, Phillies, and Nationals. Of that group, the Cubs would most likely be interested in the prospect-deep Atlanta or Los Angeles farm systems, while Sharma also wonders if Chicago could also shop Bryant to the Padres (another club with a stacked farm system) as an outfielder, since San Diego is set at the corner infield spots with Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer.
As expected, the Padres are hoping to trade pricey and underperforming outfielder/first baseman Wil Myers, Jayson Stark of The Athletic reports. The Padres appear highly motivated to part with Myers, according to Stark, who adds that there’s even a willingness on the team’s part to attach prospects from its loaded farm system if it would encourage someone to take the veteran off its hands. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reported back in September that the Padres would “likely” be willing to eat half of the $60MM left on Myers’ contract to get rid of him. At this point, it’s unknown whether the amount’s still in that ballpark. Myers, who turns 30 on Tuesday, has another three years left on his deal.
The Padres and Rays already announced last week’s trade, one that saw outfielders Hunter Renfroe and Tommy Pham switch homes, but some complications have arisen since then. Specifically, even though 31-year-old Pham “effectively passed a series of physicals this weekend,” per Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, there are concerns over his right elbow. The joint kept Pham out of action for some of 2019, and according to Acee, the Padres’ medical staff still hasn’t cleared him. The trade’s currently “in limbo” as a result, writes Acee. However, Padres general manager A.J. Preller suggested Monday that it should still go through. “We’re still working through some final details but hope to have some clarity on that in the next 24 hours,” Preller said. “When we made the trade, we made the trade with the players involved. I don’t expect anything to change between now and the time we move forward. But we just have to finish the process up.”
The Padres, along with the Braves, have thus far born the brunt of the burden in stoking the hot stove fire, but San Diego doesn’t anticipate being players at the top of the free agent market, per The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Kevin Acee. Given the enormity of the task ahead of them – dethroning the Dodgers from their perch atop the NL West – it was natural to assume GM A.J. Preller might go for the hat trick and score another big ticket free agent. Plus, hometown kid and confirmed playoff ace Stephen Strasburg is taking meetings, and the Padres could use a slide-stopping ace to stabilize their young rotation. But alas, the Padres don’t plan on meeting Scott Boras about either Gerrit Cole or Strasburg.
Two nine-figure free agents and the promotions of top prospects like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack could not stop the string of losing season for the Padres in 2019. They stretched their streak to nine while reaching 90 losses for the fourth consecutive year. The good news for Padres fans is that even though they don’t plan on attracting another top tier free agent – help is on the way. Per Acee’s sources, Preller doesn’t feel compelled to sign a top free agent ace is because he is confident in their ability to grow them from the ground up. Both MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino have the potential to join Paddack atop the rotation in the next couple years.
Gore, 21 by Opening Day, made five starts in Double-A after blistering High-A with a 1.02 ERA in 79 1/3 innings. That’s not a typo. The young southpaw gave up just 36 hits, 20 walks, and 9 earned runs while playing for the Lake Elsinore Storm. He struck out 110 batters, good for 12.5 K/9. He is baseball’s 4th best prospect per Baseball America and MLB.com, #5 by Fangraphs.
Patino ranks as the 30th best prospect in the sport by MLB.com, 26th by Fangraphs, 29th by Baseball America. Though eight months younger than Gore, they’re on the same development track as of now. Patino registered a 2.69 ERA in High-A while little more than four years younger than league average.
Needless to say, the future is bright in San Diego, but there are pressing concerns for the present still on the docket. Preller is on the lookout for at least one reliever, potentially a starting catcher, while adding another rotation arm remains in the mix. Financially, it’s tight. They may look to shed some salary in the coming days. The payroll has already climbed north of $140MM. Per Cot’s Contracts, they ran a $97MM payroll on Opening Day last year and only once have they opened a season with a payroll over $100MM (2015).
While Thursday’s Rays/Padres deal headlined by Tommy Pham and Hunter Renfroe likely won’t go down as this winter’s most shocking, the trade had something to say about the respective offseason strategies of both clubs. Tampa Bay, for their part, cut salary, increased controllability, and added yet another prized infield prospect to an already enviable collection. San Diego, true to their stated desire for a near-term return to contention, look to have secured an immediate improvement at the top of their lineup while also shuffling in an interesting two-way player likely capable of providing the big league roster with some extra support.
Hunter Renfroe is the most immediate addition to the Rays’ roster, even if this deal may have been more about the acquisition of infield prospect Xavier Edwards from the viewpoint of Tampa Bay GM Erik Neander. Renfroe has gained his share of detractors over the years for a free-swinging, low-OBP approach at the plate, but 2019 saw him finally realize the defensive potential many scouts foresaw when he was a top-100 prospect. Lining up primarily in the corners with a few starts in center, the former Bulldog recorded 22 Defensive Runs Saved and a 10.1 Ultimate Zone Rating last year, after recording average-or-worse marks in those categories the year prior. His arm is also touted as one of MLB’s most imposing.
Observers noting Renfroe’s underwhelming 98 wRC+ last year might be well-served to remember that the 27-year-old had a .252/.308/.613 line (132 wRC+) with 27 home runs heading into the All-Star break last year, before a variety of injuries were believed to have led to a precipitous second-half decline (Renfroe ended his season with a foot surgery). But even if Renfroe proves to be the roughly average hitter he’s been over the course of his career, Neander will have acquired a defensive standout capable of providing power, if nothing else, to the Rays’ lineup; better yet, he’s projected to make just $3.4MM in his first trip through arb, making him a very affordable source of said power.
As for the second aspect of this deal for the Rays, Edwards is a 20-year-old speedster who reached High-A last season. He’s hit just one home run in over 700 plate appearances since making his minor-league debut in 2018, but the youngster has terrorized pitchers (with a .328/.395/.399 career slash) and scorched the basepaths (56 steals in 168 games). When he was taken with the 38th-overall pick in the 2018 draft, MLB Pipeline relayed that scouts observed “excellent actions and footwork at shortstop” with an arm sufficient for the infield’s left side; he’s mostly split time between short and second so far in the minors, but it stands to reason his speed would play in center, as well. The Rays also acquired a PTBNL in this deal, which is not to be disregarded when said player is coming from a loaded San Diego system.
In Pham, the Padres added a player with a clear leg up on Renfroe for the title of “Best MLB Player” involved in this deal. While, at 31, he may never again reach the vertigo-inducing heights he climbed in 2017 with the Cardinals (149 wRC+ in 530 PAs), he’s still been an excellent player over the last two seasons in Tampa. His 12.1 percent walk rate, .186 isolated slugging mark, and 125 wRC+ since the beginning of 2018 all bear the markings of a standout hitter–and that’s before adding in the 42 homers and 40 steals he’s managed in that time. At an expected arbitration award of $8.6MM in his penultimate trip through the process, Pham rates as an immediate offensive upgrade over Renfroe, while drawing a salary that will possibly be less than half of what Marcell Ozuna figures to command this offseason.
Jake Cronenworth, the second player headed to San Diego in this deal, is a 25-year-old infielder capable of handling mop-up pitching duties in a pinch. Before 2019, the former Wolverine had never recorded a slugging mark north of .400 in his minor league career, but his first prolonged exposure to Triple-A baseball yielded an immediate improvement at the plate last year (surprise!). His .329/.422/.511 line with 10 homers in 419 plate appearances would lead one to believe that he’s ready for at least a part-time role in the bigs, even if those numbers were inflated by context somewhat; of course, hitting environment cuts both ways in prospect evaluation, so Cronenworth should be commended for being able to log 7.1 scoreless innings as a part-time pitcher in 2019, as well.
So, here we have a deal that, like a previous deal swung by Padres GM AJ Preller this offseason, seems to fit clear needs for both clubs. Question is, whose side do you like best?
First, Tampa Bay…
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And San Diego…
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- This has been an aggressive offseason for the Padres, who have signed or traded for Drew Pomeranz, Jurickson Profar, Trent Grisham and Tommy Pham over the past few weeks. The club’s not done yet, though, as it continues trying to find ways to break its long-running playoff drought next season. General manager A.J. Preller said (via AJ Cassavell of MLB.com) that the team’s still “actively involved in conversations” and “looking to improve our roster” as next week’s Winter Meetings approach. Could that mean signing one of the top starting pitchers available? Not necessarily, as Cassavell writes that the Padres “seem determined not to overpay for the current options on the market.” However, Cassavell suggests the Padres won’t stand pat when it comes to their starting staff.
DECEMBER 6, 6:32pm: The trade has been announced. The Rays will acquire a player to be named later to go with Renfroe and Edwards, with the Padres picking up Pham and Cronenworth.
2:00am: It appears the Rays will also land another prospect in the deal, per Juan Toribio of MLB.com.
12:27am: The Padres will also acquire minor leaguer Jake Cronenworth in the trade, Dennis Lin of The Athletic reports. The 25-year-old Cronenworth enjoyed an eminently successful year at the Triple-A level in 2019, when he hit .334/.429/.520 with 10 HRs and 12 steals in 406 trips to the plate. Cronenworth’s primarily a middle infielder, but the 2015 seventh-rounder can also pitch. He put up 7 1/3 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and four hits allowed at the minors’ highest level in 2019, though the righty hurler did surrender eight walks.
DECEMBER 5, 10:55pm: The teams have agreed to the trade, Bob Nightengale of USA Today tweets. However, it won’t be announced until medical reviews of all the involved players are completed Friday.
10:42pm: The Rays and Padres are deep into talks on a trade that would see Tampa Bay outfielder Tommy Pham and San Diego outfielder Hunter Renfroe switch clubs, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Jeff Passan of ESPN. The Rays would also land Single-A shortstop Xavier Edwards, while the Padres would pick up an unnamed prospect to go with Pham.
This is already the second major outfield trade of the winter for the Padres, who acquired Trent Grisham from the Brewers last week. Pham is far more proven than Grisham, as the former is coming off yet another outstanding season at the plate. The 31-year-old Pham, whose first full season came with the Cardinals in 2017, has somewhat quietly been among the majors’ most effective outfielders over the past three campaigns. He has totaled 13.6 fWAR, including 3.3 in 2019, dating back to his initial full season. Typically one to post high on-base percentages, Pham’s coming off a year in which he slashed .273/.369/.450 with 21 home runs and 25 stolen bases across 654 plate appearances.
In Pham, the Padres – led by under-fire general manager A.J. Preller – are getting a player with two years’ control remaining. Pham, who’s slated to earn a projected $8.6MM next season, will join Grisham, Manuel Margot, Wil Myers, Franchy Cordero and prospect Taylor Trammell as the Padres’ most prominent outfielders.
While Pham looks like an intriguing addition for the Padres, they’re giving up a powerful and affordable outfielder at the same time. Renfroe, soon to turn 28, entered the bigs as a first-round pick of the Padres in 2013. He has hit at least 26 homers in each season since debuting in earnest in 2017, including 33 this year, though injuries helped undermine him after a hot start in 2019. Renfroe wound up slashing .216/.289/.489 over 494 PA, and he earned elite marks in 998 innings divided among all three outfield positions (22 Defensive Runs Saved, 10.1 Ultimate Zone Rating).
Never a team to boast a high payroll, the Rays are saving quite a bit of money in this swap. Renfroe should only make around $3.4MM next season, which will be his first of four arbitration-eligible years. He’ll presumably accompany Austin Meadows and Kevin Kiermaier as the Rays’ starting outfielders in 2020, thus replacing free agent Avisail Garcia.
Along with Renfroe, the Rays are getting a quality farmhand in Edwards, a 2018 first-rounder whom FanGraphs ranked as the Padres’ 14th-best prospect in a loaded Padres system back in May. Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel wrote then that Edwards “is a high-effort offensive catalyst who knifes at defenses with line drives and well-placed bunts,” adding that second base or center field could be in his future. The 20-year-old divided 2019 between both middle infield positions and batted .322/.375/.396 with just a single homer in 596 PA at the Single-A and High-A levels.
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
The Padres have promoted Damion Easley to hitting coach, the team announced. Additionally, Skip Schumaker will take over as the Padres’ associate manager and Rod Barajas will grab the reins as their catching and quality control coach.
Easley, a longtime major league infielder, served as the Padres’ assistant hitting coach/infield coach in 2019. It was the first season on a major league staff for the 50-year-old Easley.
Schumaker, an ex-major league utilityman, spent last season as the Padres’ first base coach. He then drew interest from the Mets as they sought a new manager this offseason, but they elected to hire Carlos Beltran instead. Now, with the Padres as another team with a rookie manager (Jayce Tingler), Schumaker has moved up in their pecking order to become an even more important assistant.
The Padres interviewed Barajas to take over as their next manager after they fired Andy Green, but he’s among several candidates who lost out to Tingler. Barajas, a former major league catcher, served in multiple roles for San Diego in 2019. He was the team’s bench coach before grabbing the reins as interim manager when it let go of Green toward the end of September.
The Padres are planning to take another run at signing lefty Kwang-Hyun Kim now that he’s been posted by the SK Wyverns of the Korea Baseball Organization, Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. San Diego won the bidding on Kim when he was posted under the previous blind-bid system back in 2014, and the organization again has its sights set on the now-31-year-old southpaw.
Perhaps of even greater note is that Acee suggests the organization doesn’t intend to pursue either Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg — despite previous reports linking them to the latter — due to that duo’s expected price tag. MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell wrote yesterday that the Padres are “more optimistic” about their in-house options than the rest of the industry, adding that a pursuit of one of the top names is unlikely and that there’s been “no recent movement” to add to the rotation. Acee notes that Kim now stands out as the likeliest rotation addition for the Friars.
At present, sophomore Chris Paddack projects to front a Padres rotation that’ll also include Dinelson Lamet, Garrett Richards (in his first full year back from 2018 Tommy John surgery), recent trade acquisition Zach Davies and Joey Lucchesi. Others such as Adrian Morejon, Cal Quantrill, Michel Baez, Nick Margevicius and Ronald Bolanos represent 40-man alternatives, and uber-prospect MacKenzie Gore is likely ticketed for Double-A to open the 2020 season, thus placing him within arm’s reach of a promotion.
That pitching depth is indeed enviable, but the Padres’ payroll likely plays as much a role — if not a greater role — in their apparent aversion to inking additional free-agent pitchers. San Diego’s acquisitions of Davies and Jurickson Profar put them in line for a 2020 payroll in the $144MM range, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez. That number crushes their previous high-water mark, and even tacking on a mid-range starting pitcher would push the Padres beyond the $150MM mark both in terms of actual 2020 payroll and luxury-tax considerations.
The Padres have reportedly been seeking trade partners for Wil Myers for more than a year but, to this point, have unsurprisingly struggled to find a taker. Myers, who’ll turn 29 next week, is still owed a massive $61MM over the next three seasons under the now-regrettable extension he signed back in Jan. 2017, and the glut of first base/corner outfield options available elsewhere in trade or in free agency make him all the more cumbersome an asset to market in trade talks. The remaining six years and $99MM on Eric Hosmer’s eight-year contract isn’t doing the payroll any favors, either.
None of that is to say that Kim, who could be an affordable rotation option, is unworthy of an earnest pursuit. Kim has established himself as one of the best and most consistent pitchers in the hitter-friendly Korea Baseball Organization over the past decade and is fresh off a pair of sub-3.00 ERA seasons in his return from 2017 Tommy John surgery. Notably, the KBO has provided teams with extensive documentation on Kim’s health at MLB’s request, Jee-ho Yoo of the Yonhap News Agency reported recently.
Over his past 326 1/3 innings since surgery, Kim has pitched to a 2.70 ERA with 310 strikeouts against just 68 walks — demonstrating the best control of his career. He’s walked just 5.1 percent of the hitters he’s faced in that span against a 23.1 percent strikeout rate. Certainly, there’s cause for intrigue and reason to believe that he could be a viable mid-rotation upgrade at a lesser price than remaining second- and third-tier options on the domestic market.
Kim has been formally posted for Major League teams, who have until Jan. 5 to negotiate a contract with the former KBO MVP. Any team is free to sign him for any amount under the new posting system, but the Wyverns would be entitled to a release fee that is dependent on the size of the contract he inks. The Wyverns would receive a sum equal to 20 percent of the first $25MM in guarantees plus 17.5 percent of the next $25MM and 15 percent of any money spent beyond that level. A contract pushing beyond that $50MM mark (or even the $25MM plateau) hasn’t been expected, although the market for Kim is only just taking shape. What seems clear is that the Padres intend to be squarely in the mix as they seek to bolster their starting staff with an eye toward emerging from a lengthy rebuild.
The Padres announced that they’ve re-signed righties Miguel Diaz and Pedro Avila to minor league contracts and assigned both to Triple-A El Paso. Both right-handers were non-tendered yesterday and will quickly return to the organization without occupying a 40-man roster spot.
Diaz, 25, has the most big league experience of the pair. The hard-throwing righty spent the 2017 season in San Diego’s bullpen after being selected out of the Brewers organization in the 2016 Rule 5 Draft. As one would expect for a 22-year-old jumping from Class-A ball to the Majors, it was a struggle for Diaz that year, as he was knocked around for a 7.34 ERA with 7.1 K/9, 5.4 BB/9 and a whopping 2.38 HR/9 in 41 2/3 frames.
After successfully navigating his Rule 5 rookie season in the Majors, Diaz opened the ’18 campaign in Double-A and pitched quite well through 65 1/3 innings there, logging a 2.35 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 4.1 BB/9 and a 56.4 percent grounder rate. Diaz was limited to just 36 2/3 innings between the the minors and the big leagues in 2019, however, as a torn meniscus in his knee required surgery and shelved him for much of the year. The Padres will now get another look at him while still gaining some 40-man flexibility.
Avila, just 22, made his MLB debut with a start against the D-backs in early April this season, allowing just one run in 5 1/3 innings. Unfortunately, an elbow strain wiped out most of his season, and he eventually underwent Tommy John surgery in a season that saw him toss just 29 1/3 innings. Acquired in a 2016 trade with the Nationals, Avila has still barely pitched above Class-A Advanced (just three Double-A starts in addition to his lone MLB appearance), and he’ll now be out until late in the 2020 season (if not the entirety of the year). He has a long road ahead of him before reemerging as a viable MLB option, but he won’t even turn 23 until January, so age is on his side.