A.J. Preller and the Padres, only a few days before the city of San Diego is set to host the Winter Meetings, have made another statement in win-now fashion. Preller once again proved that he’s staying true to his approach, trading for Rays outfielder Tommy Pham while giving Hunter Renfroe in a deal that also featured a pair of promising prospects.
Pham will be looking to solidify the Padres lineup after the team has now lost two of its three most powerful hitters from last year in the past five months – that includes Franmil Reyes, who hit 27 homers prior to the trade deadline, which was six less than Renfroe, who led the team.
The former Cardinal is often noted as a very successful on-base player. In 2019 his .369 OBP was enough to rank him inside the top 30 in all of baseball. San Diego, meanwhile, was the fifth-worst team when it comes to putting runners on bases. Even if Reyes was still a Padre, Pham would be one of the most impactful hitters arriving for his tenure as a Padres player.
What’s even better is that he might be able to achieve even more when it comes to consistent hitting at the plate. His .273 batting average last season was his lowest in three years. Yet, he’s now hit .270 or better in three straight campaigns. He hasn’t experienced many periods of decline, and his peak saw him as one of the best hitters in the National League when he finished 11th in 2017 MVP voting, batting .306.
Pham’s success and patience at the plate aren’t going anywhere. Last year he drew career-high 81 walks in addition to decreasing the number of strikeouts by nearly 12 percent despite playing more than in his MVP campaign. His numbers were close to his best season, and he’s projected by Baseball-Reference to even add one homerun to his 2019 total, hence he’s expected to make an individual leap that would lead the Padres batting lineup towards more consistency.
Pham’s high on-base percentage is also perfect news for a top of a lineup that includes with one of the best situational hitters in the game in Eric Hosmer, who finished the year 12th in the NL with 99 RBI. Pham was brought to bring the versatility that gets him on base.
The difference between him and Renfroe, as well as some of Preller’s recent moves, just show how much the organization is willing to give up in order to compete now. He surrendered defense in the outfield and power for a player that will drastically improve the team offensively while also giving up two top 2B prospects in the last two weeks – leaving a huge hole at second base in the long term and questions at the position in the short term.
Edwards and Urias are both second basemen and were both in the top 10 of the Padres farm system. They also gave up five years of control over Renfroe for Pham.
Earlier in the offseason the Padres acquired Zack Davies from the Brewers, setting up a movement in the field of their biggest need that is, obviously, their starting pitching, which had an absolutely abysmal 2019 season. The battle for Madison Bumgarner, to whom the Padres have been strongly linked, might be the most important piece of negotiation since the team signed Manny Machado back in February.
Also in this deal they got outfield Trent Grisham, a week before they would eventually find a replacement for Urias at second base in former A’s infielder Jurickson Profar. All three deals, pulled off in just a nine-day span, were signs of an aggressive approach on the market. They also, however, showed that the Padres are just warming up. Both the rotation and the bullpen are scheduled for upgrades, and the lineup is likely to experience the same.