The San Diego Padres, intent on winning in 2020, have finalized a trade for outfielder Tommy Pham and two-way prospect Jake Cronenworth from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for outfielder Hunter Renfroe and prized second-base prospect Xavier Edwards.
The Rays also received a player to be named later.
The trade, which the sides officially announced Friday upon the completion of medical reviews, sends Pham, who turns 32 in March, to a Padres team in need of an offensive catalyst who gets on base. The Padres, who had the fifth-lowest on-base percentage in the majors last season, already acquired outfielder Trent Grisham and second baseman Jurickson Profar in trades this winter and are expected to continue dealing to alleviate an outfield glut as the winter meetings approach this week, sources said.
“We tried to address every area of our ball club, and we feel we’re improved at this point,” Padres manager A.J. Preller said.
Tampa Bay, which bowed out to the Houston Astros in a tight five-game division series this season, will get Renfroe and Edwards, an athletic middle infielder with excellent bat-to-ball skills who is a favorite among evaluators.
For the better part of a year, Renfroe, 27, has been part of Padres trade talks, with his sub-.300 career on-base percentage a red flag for teams. But his prodigious power, well-above-average defense, elite throwing arm and four years of club control were strong selling points for the Rays.
After buying low on Pham in a deal with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Rays sold relatively high, as he will earn more than $8 million in arbitration this season and become a free agent after 2021. Still, the Padres, in win-now mode, see Pham as a strong enough upgrade to warrant giving up a high-floor, higher-ceiling prospect such as Edwards.
Preller said the Padres have had their eyes on Pham and Cronenworth for a few seasons. He said he likes Pham’s “fire” and “pitch-to-pitch grind.”
Pham told the Tampa Bay Times via text message that he was “a little sad” to be leaving the Rays.
“I enjoyed my time as a Ray,” Pham said. “My teammates helped me open up and have fun as a professional. I’m gonna miss going to battle with that group of guys.”
Edwards was No. 46 on ESPN insider Keith Law’s midseason top 50 prospects list. Although he hasn’t developed power in his first two minor league seasons, Edwards has top-end speed and will play almost all of the 2020 season at 20 years old. The Rays could play him at shortstop, though a scout who saw Edwards multiple times this season says he believes he could be a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman.
To complete the deal, the Padres and Rays both dipped into their farm systems, which are considered the two best in baseball. Cronenworth, who turns 26 in January, is one of the more interesting prospects in baseball, even if he is not as highly regarded as Edwards. He can play second base, shortstop and third, though he spent most of 2019 at shortstop in Triple-A, where he hit .334/.429/.520. Cronenworth also pitched in seven games, six of them as an opener, and finished the year with a 0.00 ERA, though he walked eight in 7⅓ innings.
He could break camp with San Diego as a versatile back-of-the-roster player for a team in need of a turnaround.
After a frustrating 2019 in which they finished 70-92 and were in last place in the National League West, the Padres fired manager Andy Green, hired Jayce Tingler and have taken an aggressive tack to reflect owner Ron Fowler’s mandate to win next season.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Orange Coast College baseball coach John Altobelli among helicopter crash victims
Orange Coast College baseball coaching legend John Altobelli was among the victims in Sunday’s helicopter crash in Calabasas, California, OCC assistant coach Ron La Ruffa confirmed to the Orange County Register.
Atobelli was entering his 24th season as the head coach of the OCC baseball program, where he’s won 4 state titles. He was 56.
NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter were among several people killed in that helicopter crash, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan spoke to Mets star Jeff McNeil — who played for Altobelli in 2012 when he managed the Brewster Whitecaps, a collegiate summer baseball team in the Cape Cod League.
“He’s one of the main reasons I’m still playing professional baseball,” McNeil told ESPN.
McNeil says he had a poor first two years at Long Beach State. His coaches there asked Altobelli to bring McNeil to Brewster anyway.
“He took a chance on me, kept me the whole summer. Him taking that chance on me, having me on his team, got me drafted,” McNeil says.
“He made you believe in your ability. I remember when we first got to the Cape, he said: You’re here for a reason. You’ve just got to believe you can do it. If you want to steal, steal. Play your game. Do what you guys want to do. Enjoy it. Have fun with it. This is gonna be one of the best summers of your life.”
How Atlanta Braves might fill their hole at third base
With Josh Donaldson off to the Minnesota Twins on a four-year deal, the Atlanta Braves had a huge hole in the middle of their lineup, prompting the short-term investment in Marcell Ozuna on a one-year, $18 million deal. Ozuna will be the left fielder, with Ronald Acuna Jr. likely to split time between center field and right field, and with Ender Inciarte, Nick Markakis and Adam Duvall sharing time in the third spot.
The Braves intend to go into spring training with Johan Camargo and Austin Riley lined up to share third base unless one of them wins the job outright, and Atlanta has confidence that this could happen.
Camargo played well in 2018, posting an .806 OPS, but last season, with Donaldson set at third and Dansby Swanson off to a good start at shortstop, Camargo didn’t play much early in the season — and with intermittent playing time, he didn’t perform well. He was sent to the minors in August, worked on his swing and looked better when he returned — but then fouled a ball off his shin, suffering a fracture.
Riley was promoted to the big leagues in May and did big damage initially but then struggled, in keeping with his history; at every level he’s played, there’s been a period of adjustment. Mark Monaghan, his high school coach in Mississippi, said that Riley’s ability to cope with adversity is one of his best traits as a player, and that part of Riley will be under examination this year: In his final 49 games last season, he batted .173, with 67 strikeouts in 164 plate appearances. He’ll be 23 in April and like many young players, he’ll need to make adjustments.
But if Camargo and/or Riley don’t hit and the Braves’ current third-base plans evaporate, there likely will be other options on the market. There will be potential solutions available, such as:
Astros sign-stealing fallout could leave Houston vulnerable in AL West
Once the Houston Astros gather in spring training and begin their preparations for the 2020 season, it seems inevitable that this group of competitive professionals will eventually and reflexively rally around a mantra of “We’ll show you.”
You don’t think we were the best team in baseball in 2017? We’ll show you. You think we hit those home runs and piled up those big numbers because of sign stealing? We’ll show you. You believe that we’re defined by the cheating scandal? We’ll show you.
The Astros will be bombarded with criticism from the stands everywhere they play, and some of them will undoubtedly come to look at it as disproportionate and unfair. The resentment that grows out of this treatment may help fuel them on a given day, or longer.
But it’s possible that the backlash will negatively affect some individual players.
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