The big trade we’ve all been waiting for has finally been made official. That’s right folks, the Rays traded reliever Emilio Pagan to San Diego in exchange for outfielder Manuel Margot and catcher/outfielder prospect Logan Driscoll.
What, you were expecting Mookie Betts? Read the headline next time.
Even if this isn’t about a former MVP, it’s a fun little trade. Pagan broke out in a big way with Tampa last year. The right-handed put up a 2.31 ERA over 70 innings and struck out 96 men while walking just 13. He was one of the most important weapons in the formidable Rays bullpen, and he’ll now partner with Kirby Yates and Drew Pomeramnz for the Padres. San Diego’s bullpen was already sneaky good, and now it’s even better. AJ Preller has done well here.
As far as the Tampa side of the deal goes, it’s an interesting fit. The Rays already had no shortage of outfielders. In addition to incumbents Austin Meadows and Kevin Kiermaier, Tampa had already gotten Hunter Renfroe from the Padres earlier in the winter and signed Yoshi Tsutsugo. They also traded for Jose Martinez and Randy Arozarena from St. Louis, although Martinez is more of a 1B/DH type. Arozarena has options so he’ll probably start the season in Triple-A, and Martinez and Tsutsugo will compete for DH time given that Ji-Man Choi already has the first base job.
There’s too many pieces in place here, which makes me think that the long-rumored Kiermaier trade might happen at some point in the next few months. Kiermaier is an unquestionably great center fielder, but he makes enough money and misses enough time that he’s not the sort of dude the Rays like to keep around. Margot is essentially a slightly worse (but healthier) and much cheaper version of Kiermaier, making the subsequent trade all the more likely.
The prospect in the trade, Driscoll, was a 2019 second-rounder out of George Mason where he absolutely tore the cover off the ball. As noted above, he can both catch and play the outfield, which between that and his power makes him an Extremely Rays player indeed. This is the sort of dude the Rays like to inject their own special brand of Cardinals Devil Magic into so that he can come up and be an above-average regular for three years before trading him when it’s time to get paid in arbitration, so yeah, expect him to be knocking some dingers into the stingray tank before long. He feels like the real prize here, beyond the Margot-shaped insurance policy Tampa now has for a Kiermaier trade.