It’s a day ending in “Y,” so the San Diego Padres have made another trade involving talented outfielders. This time, it’s a big one: Tommy Pham and Jake Cronenworth will be playing in San Diego next year, with Hunter Renfroe, Xavier Edwards, and reportedly another prospect going to the Rays in exchange.
There’s a lot to unpack in this trade, so let’s take it in sections. First: what are the Rays doing? One option, as always, is that they’re one step ahead of the competition. Trading with the Rays is hazardous for executives’ health. They’re liable to turn a pile of straw into a 3-WAR outfielder, and get you to chip in Shane Baz while you’re at it.
Pham himself was one of these trades a little over a year ago. The Rays traded a shiny marble, two bright red shoelaces, Genesis Cabrera, Justin Williams, and Roel Ramirez to the Cardinals for Pham at the 2018 trade deadline. Pham promptly caught fire, batting .343/.448/.622 through the rest of 2018 before adding a 121 wRC+ 2019. His 3.3 WAR might look low for that offensive line, but it’s largely due to 92 plate appearances at designated hitter, which lowered his defensive value (though Statcast didn’t like his outfield defense in 2019).
When the Rays trade a 31-year-old outfielder for a 27-year-old outfielder, it’s easy to read it as them simply trying to outmaneuver the Padres. But there’s one major complication: salary. Pham is in his second year of arbitration, and he won his case against the Rays last year, securing a $4.1 million salary for 2019. MLB Trade Rumors projects him for $8.6 million in arbitration this year, which would have made him the third-highest-paid Ray, behind only Charlie Morton and Kevin Kiermaier. Read the rest of this entry »