Posted on February 9, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine

Emilio Pagan
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With the start of spring training just a few days away, the San Diego Padres made a move to improve an already strong bullpen. Late Saturday, the Padres completed a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for reliever Emilio Pagan. In exchange, the Rays will receive center fielder Manuel Margot and prospect Logan Driscoll.

In Pagan, the Padres are getting a 28-year-old reliever who’s coming off a breakout season with Tampa Bay last year. In 66 appearances, Pagan was 4-2 with a 2.31 ERA while collecting 20 saves. This is the third consecutive offseason that Pagan has been traded, making the Padres his fourth team in four big-league seasons. However, this is the first time that he’s been the headliner of a deal.

Despite closing games for the Rays last season, Pagan will move into a setup role for current San Diego closer Kirby Yates. More importantly, he joins a bullpen that was already loaded. Pagan will team up with young flamethrower Andres Munoz, Drew Pomeranz, and veteran Craig Stammen as San Diego’s primary setup men in 2020. The Padres will also get additional depth from Matt Strahm and Jose Castillo. In other words, an already strong bullpen is just deeper and stronger with Pagan.

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Of course, trading away Margot opens up a spot in center field for the Padres. Early indications are that Trent Grisham and Franchy Cordero will battle for the center field job during spring training. Both are short on experience but have flashed potential during their brief time in the majors. It also opens the door for Josh Naylor to see more time in right field, potentially pushing Wil Myers to center field. Meanwhile, Tommy Pham is set to be the primary left fielder after being acquired in a separate trade with the Rays earlier this offseason.

In Tampa, Margot will battle Kevin Kiermaier for playing time in center field. Kiermaier is brilliant defensively but doesn’t always hit and has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. Margot has also struggled to establish himself offensively, although he mashed lefties last year, possibly setting up a platoon in center field. The Rays were also short on natural outfielders, so trading for Margot gives them some much-needed depth.

Finally, Driscoll figures to be a nice addition to Tampa’s farm system. The Padres drafted him in the competitive balance round of last year’s draft. He posted solid numbers in short-season ball after the draft and could move through the system quickly as a polished college player. Driscoll is a left-handed hitter who can play both catcher and outfield, offering useful versatility.

On the surface, this is a somewhat unusual trade for both sides. The Padres didn’t necessarily need another bullpen arm, especially if it meant trading away their projected starter in center field. However, further improving their bullpen is a sign that the Padres think they can compete this year. It’s also a show of faith in some of their young outfielders. Meanwhile, the Rays have lost some of the depth in their bullpen for a player who isn’t likely to be an everyday player for them. On the other hand, the Rays have reportedly liked Margot for a long time and should be able to put him in a position to contribute. But all things considered, there’s no guarantee this trade makes a huge impact for either team in 2020.

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