Despite having the lowest payroll in the MLB, the Rays were one game away from upsetting the powerhouse Astros in the ALDS. Surprisingly, with their deep pitching staff, they don’t have many holes to fill this offseason; depth and a power bat would be nice additions, however.
Expected Direction: Continuing To Find Value To Build a Superteam of Misfits
Rays Trade OF Tommy Pham To Padres
Full Trade: Rays Acquire OF Hunter Renfroe, INF Xavier Edwards, and PTBNL In Exchange For OF Tommy Pham and INF Jake Cronenworth
In a shocking move, the Ray traded outfielder Tommy Pham to the Padres, along with minor-league infielder Jake Cronenworth, in exchange for outfielder Hunter Renfroe, infield prospect Xavier Edwards, and a player to be named later. Pham, 31, was arguably the Rays best position player last season with a 3.3 WAR, but with declining defense and high ground ball tendencies, he appears to be a huge regression candidate- Tampa Bay is selling him while his stock is still high. Because of that, they’re getting his replacement in Renfroe, who is cheaper and comes with four years of team control. He’s yet to blossom onto the scene, but the 27-year-old was still good for a 1.9 WAR last season, and had a 132 wrc+ in the first half before collapsing in the second half. Now, there’s no guarantee he’ll be more than an average to slightly above-average hitter, but his low BABIP (.239), improved walk rate (9.3%), and tremendous hard contact rate (46.9%) are all encouraging signs for offensive improvements, especially now that he’s in Tampa Bay; Renfroe is also a well-above-average defender. Plus, in Edwards, they’re getting a prospect that ranks as Fangraphs’ 84th best prospect; not only are they only sacrificing about 1 WAR to get the cheaper option in their swap of outfielders, but they’re also adding a high-ceiling prospect. This is classic foresight for the Rays, who, in my opinion, should see the pay-off from this deal in the short-term, and definitely in the long-term.
Rays Sign OF/3B/1B Yoshitomo Tsutsugo
Contract Details: Two Years, $12 Million
In what’ll be the first of many international signings, the Rays have jumped the market, signing Japanese slugger Yoshitomo Tsutsugo to a two-year deal worth $12 million. Tsutsugo, 28, has absolutely crushed Japanese pitching to the tune .976 OPS and .402 OBP over the past four seasons, and did so with some impressive exit velocity statistics. Whether that’ll translate to the majors remains the be seen, but if it does, he’ll add much-needed power and on-base skills for a Rays team that is the best bet to maximize on his potential and use it to their advantage.
Rays Acquire OFs Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena From Cardinals
Full Trade: Rays Acquire OF Jose Martinez, OF Randy Arozarena, Competitive Balance Round A Pick In Exchange For LHP Matthew Liberatore, C Edgardo Rodriguez, and Competitive Balance Round B Pick
In a stunning move, the Rays have parted with well-regarded pitching prospect Matthew Liberatore, shipping him to St.Louis for outfielders Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena, as well as moving up 40 slots in next year’s draft. Martinez, 31, makes the most impact right away out of the players in this deal, as although he had a down-season last year, he’s generally been a terrific hitter, and most importantly for Tampa Bay, he’s fantastic (160 wrc+) versus lefties; the Rays have a lot of left-handed hitters, so having Martinez fill-in at first base or designated hitter will make their lineup a lot more balanced. As for the 24-year-old Arozarena, he’s apparently who Tampa Bay is most intrigued by, as he’s consistently produced at every level, and if they believe they can develop him into a starting outfielder, there’s no reason why that can’t be the case. Still, that may warrant giving up a decent prospect for, but not Liberatore, who is a perfect match for them; they always need cheap, young pitching, and his upside is that of an ace. The Rays make a lot of risky trades like this that have worked out, but even the smartest of organizations make mistakes on occasion, and they’re playing with too much fire here.
Rays Acquire OF Manuel Margot and C/OF Logan Driscoll From Padres
Full Trade: Rays Acquire OF Manuel Margot and C/OF Logan Driscoll From Padres In Exchange For RP Emilio Pagan
In a very surprising decision, the Rays have shipped high-end reliever Emilio Pagan to the Padres, acquiring young outfielder Manuel Margot and catcher/outfield prospect Logan Driscoll in the process. The 25-year-old is now the fifth outfielder that Tampa Bay has acquired this offseason, though he has a much different profile for the rest. With a putrid .279 xwOBA and .337 xSLG, he’ll never provide much of anything offensively, but with elite sprint speed and defense (11 Outs Above Average), he’s proven himself to be a stellar defensive center fielder. Plus, for whatever reason, he was stellar versus lefties with a 139 wrc+ last season, and although that came with a .416 BABIP, his 61 wrc+ versus righties was brought down by a .222 BABIP. He’ll presumably platoon with Kevin Kiermaier in center field, has three years left of club control, and clearly, the Rays see more in him than I currently do. As for the 22-year-old Driscoll, he was the 73rd overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, had a solid 124 wrc+ in Low-A, and provides extra value since he can play both catcher and outfield. He’s not a well-regarded prospect at the moment, though obviously, Tampa Bay feels differently. Usually, it’s good practice to trade a reliever coming off a career year, but for the Rays, Pagan was a key part of a stacked bullpen that was the team’s clear strength as they go on the World Series push. Margot could turn out to be a decent player, but he doesn’t have a clear sport with them, and you have to wonder if they’d been better off simply holding onto Pagan; they have a pretty stacked and complete roster as currently constructed.
*Will Be Updated With Every Move The Rays Make