Tommy Pham, a fan favorite in St. Louis, is on the move to Tampa in a deal that seems one-sided.
When a player gets traded for multiple assets, it’s easy to call it a one-sided deal. What typically isn’t the case is the team getting the one player being the team that performed a fleecing.
That feels like the case on Tuesday when it was announced the St. Louis Cardinals were trading Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Cardinals have an abundance of outfielders, and Pham isn’t a top-level superstar by any means, but he’s an everyday member who regularly produces.
Trading that guy for three prospects isn’t usually the move for a team still (slightly) in postseason contention. Tampa is the team that is supposed to be selling off parts for future investments, but the roles have been reversed in a deal Rays fans are going to feel really good about for a very long time.
Here is what the trade looked like on Tuesday morning:
It’s hard to love this deal if you’re a Cardinals fan, but there’s always a silver lining to every trade.
St. Louis Cardinals
Let’s just get this out of the way: It’s a super light return for a very productive piece of the core. The Cardinal Way makes it easy for fans to cope with the pain of losing a favorite player, Pham was the embodiment of working hard to get to high places.
He worked 11 years to get an everyday spot in the Cardinals lineup, and despite being injured, was a productive member of a very good team. Now he’s being swapped out for spare parts, which is essentially the return for Pham from Tampa Bay.
Justin Williams is a consensus Top-250 prospect, but that’s a really large pool to be swimming in. On a more micro level, the Cardinals are getting back the Rays No. 14 and No. 25 prospect, which seems better even if it’s not. Instead of haggling over whether the Cardinals robbed the Rays in a three-for-one (they didn’t’), look at this for what it is: Waving the white flag. Not getting back Chris Archer, or even having him in the conversation at all, makes this deal look even worse.
St. Louis is falling behind in the NL Central and can’t seem to get a grip on a wide open National League playoff chase. Mike Matheney was fired earlier this month and this season looks like it’ll be a lost one. The prospects St. Louis got back are decent, but it’s a sign that the team is more concerned with bouncing back in 2019 and beyond instead of making a desperate move to salvage whatever this season will end up being.
Tampa Bay Rays
Tommy Pham might be an injury concern, but he’s proven in his time with the Cardinals what he can bring to a clubhouse. He’s a high character guy who will help guide the Rays into the future, should they choose to build him into whatever their core will look like in a few years.
It’s a bit of an interesting deal because Tampa isn’t in the buyers market, yet it just traded three prospects for an MLB-level player. What we were expecting was in the inverse, where Tampa is taking on prospects to build a foundation for the future while trading Major League talent away.
Pham rests in limbo between being a guy that’s an immediate starter and a guy who’s a prospect. He’s coming off a hip injury, which means he’ll have to settle into his role again and do so on a new team.
Everything we’ve seen from him, though, suggests he’ll be just fine. He may not be a superstar, but Pham could very much be an All-Star with Tampa in the near future. He’ll get plenty of chances to be an everyday member of the lineup, and if Cardinals fans loved him while he was in St. Louis than it’s safe to assume Rays fans will rally around him as well.
It’s a sneaky good steal for a team we weren’t expecting to make this kind of deal.