Xavier Edwards Aims To Win Converts With Rays
When the Rays traded No. 2 hitter Tommy Pham to the Padres in December, the move was panned by ace Blake Snell, who was critical of the trade on a video games live stream.
But the Rays' front office is banking on 20-year-old middle infielder Xavier Edwards to win converts—even Snell, the 2018 Cy Young Award winner.
"We expect him to a be a long-term, major league, anchor-type contributor,’’ general manager Erik Neander said.
The Rays acquired Edwards, the Padres' supplemental first-round pick in 2018, big league outfielder Hunter Renfroe and a player to be named, while surrendering Pham and Triple-A shortstop Jake Cronenworth to San Diego.
Edwards spent much of the second half of 2019 at high Class A Lake Elsinore. In 123 games overall, he hit .322/.375/.396 with one home run and 34 stolen bases. He spent most of his time at second base, playing shortstop about twice a week.
"He turned 20 in August,’’ Neander said. "He’s a high school draft who adjusted really well to pro ball. He’s moved quick, and already demonstrated success at high A.
"He's just a dynamic player. He can switch-hit. Strong ability to hit for average and reach base. Big-time legs. He doesn’t strike out at all. We anticipate a little more power in time. Really, he's a great kid with a great foundation.’’
Edwards said he was surprised to be traded, pleased to be closer to his South Florida home and excited to join a Rays farm system thick with middle infielders, led by Wander Franco, the No. 1 prospect in baseball.
"It’s great to get around good young players, and they’re a talented bunch,’’ Edwards said.
Neander acknowledged the Rays' stockpile of middle infield prospects backing up a big league double-play duo of Willy Adames and Brandon Lowe. He said those situations tend to work themselves out, potentially leading to other trades.
Edwards said that Snell quickly reached out to smooth things over.
"He was a good friend of Pham’s, and he kind of just reacted in that moment," Edwards said, ". . . but that he didn’t mean any disrespect or any hard feelings I’ve got to take him at his word."
— Neander said it was tough to part not only with Pham in the deal with San Diego, but also two-way prospect Jake Cronenworth, noting the Padres insisted he be included in the deal.
— New minor league coordinator hires include Greg Brown (hitting, from Division II Nova Southeastern), Rolando Garza (pitching, from Pepperdine), Chris Prieto (outfield/baserunning, from the Mariners). Also promoted to coordinator were Dan DeMent (hitting) and Alejandro Freire (field).