The Tampa Bay Rays have been busy selling players all year, but they made an unexpected trade this morning by acquiring St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Tommy Pham. In return, the Cardinals received minor leaguer's Genesis Cabrera, Justin Williams, and Roel Ramirez.
At 53-53, the Rays sit in third place in the AL East and 21 games back of the first place Boston Red Sox. Tampa Bay is amid a rebuild, yes, but has been able to stay consistent in the win column all season. The addition of Pham is interesting for the Rays considering all the players they've sold in the last calendar year.
Pham was a key player for the Cardinals in 2015 during his rookie season, helping the Cardinals win 100 games and hitting a home run in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Chicago Cubs. Pham has been riddled by injuries over the course of his career but when he's healthy, he's as good as anyone. The move could be a statement to Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who has been more injury-riddled than Pham in his career.
How it looks
Though Pham isn't an upgrade by any means, the move shows that the Rays front office is giving the club on the field a chance to win over 80 games this season. Just when it looked as if the Rays were throwing in the towel, they now appear to be trying to run away from the bottom of the AL East and keep a third-place finish a real possibility.
The move itself is good for both clubs. The Cardinals look to be making roster changes going into 2019 and getting three minor league prospects allows them to build up some new talent. Meanwhile, the Rays are still fielding a team every night that's better than a Triple-A club. Pham can play defense and hit for power, a nice balance for a young squad. Last year, in just 128 games, he hit .306 with 24 home runs, 73 RBI, and 25 stolen bases. Pham also has three years of arbitration left, meaning the Rays could keep him around for the next few seasons as the club looks to contend soon.
The Cardinals aren't going into a full rebuild by trading Pham, but the trade signifies that the club is looking ahead and won't make competing for the playoffs a priority this season. The Rays won't either unless another move occurs in which the Rays deal Pham for top prospects from another team. The trade is bizarre, but the deal works for both clubs in the long run.