Tommy Pham or Hunter Renfroe?

Late last night the news broke that the San Diego Padres and Tampa Bay Rays had agreed on a trade. The Padres had agreed to trade Hunter Renfroe and Xavier Edwards in exchange for Tommy Pham and Jake Cronenworth. This is a trade that is very similar on both ends of the deal. Each team is trading a current impact player in addition to a prospect. Hunter Renfroe and Tommy Pham are both players that are going to play a role in their respective club’s success in the 2020 season. While both Xavier Edwards and Jake Cronenworth are players that will contribute down the road.

Edwards currently ranks at the 72nd spot in MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list. A player who’s ETA isn’t until 2022 but can definitely be an impact player down the road.

On the opposite end, Jake Cronenworth has a listed ETA of 2019 but his projected potential isn’t as high. Not to mention that 2019 has passed and he hasn’t made his major league debut. He wasn’t listed on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect list and he was ranked all the way down at 17th overall in the Tampa Bay Rays farm system. Jake is a two-way player though, so it may be interesting to see how he develops.

These two prospects are very different and I am excited to see how Edwards develops. Based on his current position, he can definitely contribute to the Rays at some point in the future.

Image via DRays Bay

Now, let’s analyze how the two major parts of the trade are going to play out. Tommy Pham was an important leadoff hitter for the Rays in 2019 and was a big part of their success and the Rays almost elimination of the Houston Astros in the division series. He recorded a 3.3 WAR in 2019 and it would have been higher if not for his defense. He recorded an 18.5 offensive WAR but was bought down by his -7.5 defensive WAR. To boast more about his offensive production, he recorded a .349 wOBA and a 121 wRC+ last season.

One thing to note though about Pham is that he is currently 31 years of age. He is also starting to show signs of decline in his performance. Since 2017, Pham’s WAR, wOBA, and wRC+ have all declined each season. So, he has peaked in his career according to the numbers but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute to the Padres. It does mean he might be a liability, especially when it comes to defense. With the Padres being a National League team they will never be able to hide him in the DH spot. If he is in the lineup then he is going to be in the field. Pham is still going to contribute to the Padres and in a sizable way but don’t expect him to get any major offers when he will enter free agency in 2021. At that point, it may be difficult for him to find a job.

Image via The San Diego Union-Tribune

Hunter Renfroe may not be as good as Pham at the moment but over the next several years he will prove to be more valuable. He is currently only 27 years of age and has shown some serious power so far. Last season he hit 33 home runs and 26 each of the two seasons before that. Now, he has only recorded a combined 3.5 WAR over the past two seasons but he has some very desirable skills.

As already mentioned his power is one skill that Renfroe has proved to be useful. His defense in one other factor that needs to be mentioned. Last year his defense took a huge jump in production. His Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) jumped from -0.8 in 2018 to 10.1 in 2019. So, in comparison to Pham, he provides a lot more defensive value. Renfroe just needs to develop his ability as a hitter. He does have power but cannot get on base. Last season his OBP was .289 and in 2018 it was .302. His stat cast metrics don’t speak volumes about him either when it comes to offensive production. Yes, he has the power but everything else drags behind. So, expect similar production out of Renfroe in the coming years with a slight increase in production when it comes to power.

The difference between Pham and Renfroe is that one provides short term value and the other provides long term value. Pham will be valuable for the next season and probably the one after that. However, Renfroe will provide his current production over a longer time due to the age difference.

It’s a difficult assessment as to who won the trade in the current moment. The Rays did fill a whole behind the plate since Travis d’arnaud left in free agency. However, Pham could have been a valuable piece in helping them return to the playoffs in 2020. For the Padres, they added some future talent and a player that can help them win now. This may be a sign that they may be active this offseason with so many big names on the free-agent market.

This trade acts as a small piece to set up each team for what’s next. As it sets the Padres up to get more talent and helps them to be competitive in 2020. For the Rays, it allows them to have a consistent backstop behind the plate. Don’t think of this trade as a win or a loss for either team. Think of it as a chess move that sets each team up to make bigger and more important moves this offseason. Let’s just see if either team can put the remaining teams in checkmate.

Sources include FanGraphs, Baseball Savant, and ESPN