In a trading deadline that was set to revolve around selling the remaining team control of Chris Archer, the Rays swung an unexpected move, sending three minor league prospects to St. Louis to acquire Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham.
I’m still processing this, as I’m sure of most of you are, but it’s certainly a bold and proactive move. The Rays had a need for a right-handed corner bat, now and in the future, so they went out and got one.
What did the Rays acquire?
Pham hit .306/.411/.520 last year, and garnered MVP votes. The 2018 season has represented a step back for Pham as he’s dipped to a .248/.331/.399 slash, however, he still has provided league-average offense, and is closing in on a two-WAR season. There is value there, and the Rays obviously think his future performance can fall somewhere between what he was last year, and what he’s been this year.
Pham’s 2017 season may have been fueled by a .368 BABIP, and although he has not replicated his numbers from last season thus far, there’s something about Pham that’s remained consistent—his ability to make very hard contact. In fact, Pham is making harder contact this year (92.7 MPH) than he was last year (89.2).
Why would the Rays pursue Tommy Pham, whose OPS is down 200 points from last season? He still hits the ball about as hard as anyone on the regular. pic.twitter.com/ws5iqzawQh— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 31, 2018
If you look deeper, you might suspect that Pham has changed his approach at the plate. I don’t know if this was intentional, or if it’s just something that has slowly built over time, but Pham hasn’t used the entire field (as he did last year). His Pull% has climbed from 26.8% in 2017 to 37% so far in 2018, and his Oppo% has dropped six percentage points. That may very well be something the Rays feel they can correct.
The other major difference in Pham’s batted ball profile this season is that he’s failed to elevate the ball like he did before. That, along with other concerns, might have given the Cardinals more of a reason to move him.
The good news for the Rays, though is that, most of the rest of Pham’s profile remains in line, with his previous success. His walk and strikeout numbers, while a bit worse, remain in the same neighborhood.
And interestingly, as Tyler Kinzey and Tanner Puckett note in their excellent pieces dissecting Tommy Pham’s slump, Pham’s 2017 has really been a tale of two seasons, with an immense first half followed by a second-half swoon. The Rays are hopeful that the swoon is an anomaly, rather than the actual picture of what Tommy Pham is.
Pham is 30 years old, which makes him seem like an odd buy for a young team that hopes to contend in the future, but he’s not your average 30 year old.
Unlike most major league veterans playing out their prime, Pham arrived on the scene late, so he is cheap and just about to enter arbitration. With three years of team control remaining, Pham is in a position to help the Rays immediately, and to continue to do so as the next window of contention opens.
He’s a unique player with a unique backstory, and I am incredibly excited about this move. The Rays have done a fantastic job in activating their minor league depth to aggressively prepare this team to contend in the near future.
It’s hard not to love this trade for the Rays. What say you?
LOVE this trade for the Rays. Who'd they give up? And who'd they get?— Do-over Harold (@SamMillerBB) January 22, 2014
Previously: Rays acquire Tommy Pham from St Louis Cardinals