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Rays Roundtable: Who replaces Tommy Pham in 2020?

or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Tommy Pham Trade.

MLB: OCT 02 AL Wild Card - Rays at A’s Photo by Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The following Rays roundtable captures a conversation by the Masthead in slack over the last two days regarding how the 96-win Rays might be able to replace Tommy Pham’s production in 2020 through the various trades and signings this offseason.


Danny Russell

Check out this Tsutsugo projection from RotoGraphs:

That’s basically identical to TDA’s stats! And that fits the narrative I’ve been heading toward!

So here’s a very serious question: Have the Rays replaced what was lost on offense?

It’s been about a month since the Rays traded the No. 2 hitter and the roster is getting close to complete, so we should have a pretty clear idea by now who will be replacing the outgoing 2019 pieces, and particularly Tommy Pham — who I still argue was the 2019 team’s best hitter.

Like there might be some changes. We might see a bench player adjustment here or there — maybe Kevan Smith wins the back up catcher role, maybe the Rays pick up another right handed hitter (maybe one that can defend this time!) — but this team is just about done being built.

If this is the Rays roster moving forward, I think we need to paint a clear picture of who is replacing the outgoing pieces, and that Yoshi projection helps fill in the gaps for me:

Avisail Garcia —> Hunter Renfroe

Guillermo Heredia —> Randy Arozarena

TDA —> Yoshi

Those are all very straightforward replacements, but that brings me back to Tommy Pham.

Pham —> ???

Darby Robinson

Bat alone, a JMart and Choi platoon outproduces Pham, so maybe that’s the thinking.

Replace his bat with a platoon while improving his defense with Arozarena or Renfroe. The Rays can be more flexible with the new pieces.

Pham vs LHP (career)
.295/.417/.473 144 wRC+

JMart vs LHP (career)
.331/.405/.570 160 wRC+


Pham vs RHP (career)
.271/.356/.471 124 wRC+

Choi vs RHP (career)
.258/.358/.486 127 wRC+

N. Lowe has far too little splits data to be useful, but he’s in that Choi range (or they just use Choi since they could replace his 1B with Yandy and 3B with Yoshi).

Jim Turvey

I see you’ve come around on the value of J-Mart, Darby!

That’s a trade I am totally on board with, mostly thanks to the then-for-now timeline of it — you know, as opposed to the logic of the Pham trade.

Darby Robinson

JMart’s career vs LHP numbers are stupid — His career numbers are as good as Pham’s was last year vs LHP at absolute career highs

I know you are big on the JMart wagon Jim. I was more lukewarm, but he’s such a fun personality that I’m really warming to him.

Mister Lizzie

But JMart supposedly shouldn’t even be handed a glove, right?

I know Pham failed the eye test for some on our masthead in the field last year, but his numbers weren’t terrible and I assume if he’s healthy he can play a respectable corner outfield.

I still think this team would be a ton better in 2020 without the Pham trade, but with the other additions. Why not? They didn’t need to trade Pham. And I’ll be thrilled if Xavier Edwards makes me think about this entirely differently in 4 years or so, but I’m really focused on 2020.

Darby Robinson

Pham is gonna be solidly a 3 win player probably for the next two years, in my opinion. With room for more certainly, but if he settles into being a below replacement level defender as some expect with a 120 or so wRC+ bat, that’s a solid 3 win guy.

But if Renfroe is even somewhat normal bat on aggregate with that glove being close to what it was last year, you have a guy who can be a 1.5-2 win guy so looking at an immediate loss of 1-2 wins with Renfroe over 3 years vs Pham over 2, but also a gain of Edwards.

The best argument for the Pham trade is still that the Rays must have been blown away on Edwards.

Danny Russell

The Pham trade is easier to stomach when you include the Cardinals trade I think, whether you look at JMart as his replacement on offense or not. I know real life does not work this way, but consider how you might feel if I swapped the two trade returns we are discussing:

Rays trade
LF Tommy Pham
SS/RP Jake Cronenworth
C Edgardo Rodriguez

Rays receive
DH Jose Martinez
OF Randy Arozarena
1st round draft pick (No. 37)


Rays trade
RHP Matthew Liberatore (No 42)
2nd round draft pick (No. 64)

Rays receive
RF Hunter Renfroe
2B Xavier Edwards (No 85)

Even that lines up the offseason moves into something a bit more logical. One trade does not an offseason make!

Bradley Neveu

I’ve come around. I think it was smart to move on from Pham. I see him being 2-ish wins in 2020 and 1.5 in 2021 — which has a place on every team — but rays got value for it, and that’s to be applauded.

Darby Robinson

If you think Renfroe is on the rise and Pham is on the decline, even at best hopes I think Pham is still clearly the more valuable player over the next two years.

But Renfroe has more years of control and you get Xavier Edwards. And a lot of folks I’ve trusted before have been extremely high on Edwards so I could see it.

JT Morgan

How far off Pham vs Renfroe in the short term is going to be pretty fascinating. Edwards is a very good prospect, and most I’ve talked to think the Padres paid quite a lot to bring Pham. I tend to think it’s a bit less than most as I do value present wins more highly than most.

I think Pham puts up somewhere in the 5-6 wins over the next 2 years before he becomes a free agent at a fairly good price (around 2/$20MM). So I definitely don’t think Pham is going to be bad. The variables are how good is Renfroe, and how good is Edwards. The Rays got the two more variable assets in the trade.

Combining it with the Cardinals trade, like Danny does above, and I think it’s quite interesting as they got a lot of years of guys who look to be pretty good. Mostly it’s a wash in the prospects moving in Liberatore for Edwards.

Also comparing what the Rays got for Pham vs the Pirates got for Marte is interesting. The Pirates got some premium for Marte based on the really weak CF market. The comparable I put to what the Pirates got was Edwards and JJ Goss.

Goss vs Malone went 36 and 33 overall in last year drafts as HS RHP. So I think one of the best matches. Edwards vs Peguero is probably a bit Edwards favor. He’s about a year closer to the majors, and generally ranked a bit higher on top 100s.

Darby Robinson

The Rays can’t replace Tommy Pham directly, but they may have improved on him in the aggregate. I think overall you probably end up in a similar place, but you do it with a bit more risk in injuries and less risk in performance (while the rays have now spread out that risk a bit more)

I’m not saying I agree, but that’s seemingly the idea: Pham has a better chance to be the best individual player out of everybody, but he’s on the wrong side of 30 with a history of nagging injuries who ended the year playing through another injury.

There is risk regardless since Pham may not get injured and remain great, and guys like Renfroe may never be as good as the first half and JMart is actually on the decline and not just a one year injury fueled blip.

Mister Lizzie

I don’t disagree about the risk with Pham but they weren’t signing him to a long term contract, just betting that he’d be worth $8 million which I believe is like 1 win. But the Pham thing to me carries some emotional baggage.

JT Morgan

The whole Pham situation feels like they weren’t looking to move him, but they got an offer they felt they couldn’t refuse. I feel much better about it after they did move Liberatore. It’s always about balancing now and the future.

Bradley Neveu

Looking to replace 2019 Pham is tough... 2020 Pham is a different story.

Mister Lizzie

Right, if we assume we were watching the start of his decline then 2020 Pham is replaceable.

Bradley Neveu

And if we assume Renfroe was breaking out as well...

JT Morgan

Even 2019 Pham isn’t that tough to replace. He had a good season, but it’s not like he performed like Meadows did. Also don’t want to make it seem like he was bad. He was a solidly good player.

Probably 5 guys that could realistically out perform 2019 Pham (Meadows, BLowe, Choi, Diaz, and Adames). Adames would take a step forward and continue what he did in the second half. The rest either equalled him or better last year with Diaz being just under.

Ozuna getting 1/18 is interesting. I didn’t expect he’d basically just get the QO.

Ian Malinowski

Of note: 2018 Wendle out-fWAR’d 2019 Pham.

(I’m picking 2020 Pham there of course.)

JT Morgan

Ya, I still like 2020 Pham, but I think what he did last year is being overstated. He got off to a crazy hot start, which is great, but the last ~500 PA was pretty average due to injury.

You can add Tsutsugo to the group of guys who could match what Pham did last year.

Mister Lizzie

Y’all are really not letting me have my temper tantrum about the Pham trade.

JT Morgan

Nope! Logic must prevail!

I really appreciate what Pham did while here, though. I’ll miss rooting for him everyday.