St. Louis Cardinals, Tampa Bay Rays

Rays taking a low-cost, low-risk bet on Tommy Pham

The Tampa Bay Rays have to see treasure in what other teams might consider trash, and with the acquisition of Tommy Pham they’re clearly buying low.

The Tampa Bay Rays are out of the American League playoff race, while the St. Louis Cardinals are still sticking around in the National League. But according to multiple reports the two sides have struck a deal, with outfielder Tommy Pham headed to Tampa Bay for three prospects.

Pham had a breakout season in 2017, with a .306/.411/.520 slash-line, 23 home runs, 25 stolen bases, 73 RBI and 95 runs scored. He carried that into this year, as he hit .341 (.415 BABIP) with a .964 OPS through the end of April. But since May he’s hitting just .217 (.286 OPS), with an over-correction in BABIP (.261).

Adding a major league player at the deadline is an odd move for the Rays, since they’re 21 games back in the AL East and 10 games back of the second Wild Card. They gave up a couple of top-25 prospects in their system, in outfielder Justin Williams (No. 14) and left-handed pitcher Genesis Cabrera, while right-hander Roel Ramirez was not in their top 30 according to MLB.com.

Pham is already 30 years old, so it’s worth wondering if last year was a breakthrough or if it will stand out as a career year. But he can play all three outfield positions, and he has all three years of arbitration eligibility coming before he can hit free agency. That’s just the kind of player Tampa Bay has to acquire and cultivate, with cost control as both a reason to keep him and a reason other teams would have interest in acquiring him at some point down the road.

The Cardinals are making a lot of roster changes, which could be viewed in combination as a concession on their playoff chances for this year. The Rays need to have an eye for value, and teams selling low on players, and Pham is a low-risk proposition along both of those lines.

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