The Rays have acquired center fielder Manuel Margot and catcher/outfielder Logan Driscoll from the Padres in exchange for reliever Emilio Pagán, per a report from The Athletic’s Josh Tolentino on Saturday night:
Margot, 25, is a curious addition to the Rays’ outfield mix, as he provides most of his value through his center-field defense. Margot ranked fifth among qualified major-league center fielders with six defensive runs saved in 2019 — one spot behind his new teammate, Kevin Kiermaier, who had 13 DRS in 129 games. Unless the Rays are planning to trade Kiermaier, it doesn’t seem likely that Margot will get much playing time in center, as it’s almost impossible to imagine them benching Kiermaier or moving him to a corner.
That presumably leaves Margot, who stole 20 bases last season, as a pinch-running option and defensive replacement. Bit it’s still somewhat difficult to see how they’ll find a consistent spot for him on their 26-man roster, as Austin Meadows (a solid defensive center fielder in his own right) and Hunter Renfroe figure to get frequent playing time at the corners, as does Japanese rookie Yoshitomo Tsutsugo. While he probably won’t see that much time in the field going forward, new DH José Martínez will also occupy a roster spot, and Tampa also has to find a way to juggle a large contingent of infielders that will include some combination of Ji-man Choi, Brandon Lowe, Willy Adames, Yandy Díaz, Daniel Robertson, Joey Wendle, Michael Brousseau, and Nate Lowe. So it’s possible that Margot, who has two options remaining, could find himself in Triple-A to begin the season.
The 22-year-old Driscoll, a competitive-balance pick out of George Mason in last summer’s draft, spent time both behind the plate and in the outfield in college, and he continued to hone his skills at both positions with short-season Tri-City after being drafted. As a left-handed hitter with positional versatility, he has the ideal profile for a modern backup catcher if he can perform consistently enough to reach the majors. Driscoll hit .268/.340/.458 with three homers over 39 games at Tri-City.
Pagán, who led Rays relievers with 20 saves last season, is another intriguing addition to a Padres bullpen that was already very strong with Kirby Yates and Craig Stammen returning and Drew Pomeranz joining the club. The 28-year-old Pagán posted career bests in ERA (2.31) and WHIP (0.83) in 2019, and with him joining the fray the Padres very well may have the best bullpen in the NL West, if not the entire league.