Breaking Down the Emilio Pagán Acquisition for San Diegoby Jordan Leandre February 9, 2020 1 comment
The San Diego Padres got some much-needed reinforcements Saturday night, acquiring right-handed flamethrower Emilio Pagán from the Tampa Bay Rays.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 9, 2020
In return, the Padres send outfielder Manuel Margot (.297 career wOBA) and prospect Logan Driscoll (fourth-round pick in the 2019 Draft).
Pagán bounced back from a subpar 2018 by posting career-highs in earned run average (2.31), xFIP (3.15), strikeout rate (36 percent), strikeout-to-walk rate (31.1 percent), and SIERA (2.54). As a result, he became one of the most vital pieces of a Rays bullpen that ranked first in fWAR (7.6), ERA (3.71), second in FIP (3.94), and third in xFIP (4.13).
On top of that, Pagán ranked first amongst all qualifying pitchers with a .221 xwOBA, second with a .174 xBA, second in xSLG (.303), and sixth in wOBA (.245).
Two questions come out of this trade: Why would the Rays trade one of the better relievers in the game? And who is going to play center field for the Padres in 2020? We’re going to try and answer both of these.
Why would the Rays trade one of the better relievers in baseball?
By and large, relievers are extremely volatile. In a position that is reliant on how you do in short sample sizes at a time, it’s just as easy to have a bad season as it is to have an elite season, whether you have a proficient ability or not.
Look no further than Edwin Diaz, who was ranked as one of the top relievers in baseball after his 2018 season, and responded by posting a 5.59 earned run average and a home-run-per-fly-ball rate of 26.8 percent in 2019. Pagán has shown flashes of brilliance, but also the ability to be inconsistent and unreliable.
They very well could be looking to capitalize on the 28-year-old’s excellence, as well as acquiring outfield depth with minor league options in Margot, on top of adding Driscoll –– who posted a .366 wOBA in 162 plate appearances in Low-A ball last season.
However, this deal likely is about balance. Tampa Bay is loaded with young bullpen arms but didn’t put up much of a fight offensively in their three losses against the Astros in last year’s American League Division Series. This offseason alone, the Rays have parted ways with Tommy Pham, acquiring Hunter Renfroe, Jose Martinez, Randy Arozarena, and now Manuel Margot to bolster their outfield depth.
Second, who will play center field for the Padres in 2020?
The Padres have done a lot to improve their roster from last season, adding Zach Davies, Trent Grisham, Drew Pomeranz, Tommy Pham, and now Emilio Pagán. However, trading Manuel Margot opens up a potential hole in center field for the Friars.
That being said, they do still have options. Who are they?
Grisham, along with right-handed pitcher Zach Davies, came over in the trade that sent Luis Urias and Eric Lauer to the Milwaukee Brewers. While many remember Grisham for the costly misplay in the National League Wild Card Game, he actually rates very well as a defender.
In 136 innings as a center fielder in 2019, Grisham posted one defensive run saved, as well as a 5.5 UZR/150. In total, he posted five defensive runs saved and an 8.9 UZR/150. He’s an above-average defender, who is a slight upgrade offensively from Manuel Margot, posting a wRC+ of 10 runs higher in 2019 despite rating below league average.
Myers played 155 games in 2019, but durability was perhaps the only productive thing he provided for the Padres. Myers struggled with the bat, as he posted the worst strikeout rate of his career (34.3 percent), mixed with a below-average wRC+ (96), a pedestrian .323 xwOBA, and a career-worst -10 defensive runs saved in center field.
However, Myers is definitely a better hitter than he showcased a year ago. Even with the career-lows, he did manage to post a career-high in xwOBACON (.451) and was above his career average for walk rate (10.4 percent). He might not be worth the $22.5 million in adjusted salary he’s set to make in 2020, but he can still be a productive piece to a team looking to make the playoffs.