The Ways of the Rays: Why trading Tommy Pham was a smart move

By Seth Carter
Tommy Pham (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Tommy Pham (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Pham vs. Renfroe

We have established that Pham is the better hitter. That’s why the Rays got the better prospect in the deal. Are they throwing in the towel following a 96-win season?

Here are some key-bats the Rays have lost from last year’s thrilling team.

Pham, d’Arnaud, and Garcia make up a majority of the middle of the order spots in last year’s lineups. Pham would mostly hit out of the two or three-hole. These were very important right-handed bats to the Rays. A

When news broke last night, fans reacted in a similar fashion to Blake Snell. Snell was mid-stream on Twitch and he was at a loss for words…well words that a PR guy for the Rays would want him to deliver.

He used somewhat colorful language, but essentially he was baffled at trading Pham for Renfroe and a prospect. He then admitted it was rude to belittle a minor leaguer and that he’s just upset to see such an impact bat go.

"“Tommy’s the man, bro. It’s just hella stupid.”"

Here is more on Snell’s response.

I get the frustration, he’s losing more than we are as fans. Snell just lost a teammate. From a fan’s perspective though, that “slapd–k prospect” (as Snell so colorfully put it) has a very promising future and Hunter Renfroe is not a player to merely be dismissed.

Kevin Cash, Blake Snell, and the rest of the Rays locker room loved Tommy Pham. They loved his ability to get on base, to own the zone, and to be a leader in the clubhouse. There’s no doubt the Rays are going to miss him next season, and Renfroe will be an immediate downgrade from Pham.

Here’s why things are not as bad as you think.

Why it was time to move on from Pham

The Rays are value shoppers. They are the savvy investor who knows when to buy low and sell high. Pham is entering his age-32 season still playing at peak-levels.

The Rays have to continue to stock the minor league system to provide the team with control over young, talented players. This move is tough to digest, but being a Rays fan keeps you constantly aware of the business of baseball. I think of the Chris Archer trade, the Rays moved an established Major Leaguer with a reasonable contract for three prospects. Two of those prospects (Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows) became anchors for the 96-win team last year and the third (Shane Baz) looks like the real deal in the minors.

At just $8.6 million, Pham is a steal by any Major League team’s standards. To get that sort of productions for under $10 million is an incredible value and allows for normal teams to build around him.

However, to the Rays, $8.6 million is enough to make him the third highest-paid player on the  2020 roster. It’s a significant portion of the budget. Beyond that, Pham is set to be a free agent at the end of 2021. Injuries have been a bit of an issue for the soon-to-be 32-year-old. In fact, he was hampered by multiple injuries toward the end of last season. Moving him now maximized his value.

Say they kept him in 2020, what would his value look like a year from now?

He probably isn’t going to go out and have a better season than the numbers he put up last year. So with the same or worse production, entering his age-33 season, and only one year of control, you aren’t getting a Renfroe/Edwards package. Also, by next year Edwards will possibly have worked his way into the Padres’ top-three prospects. The time to move Pham is now…WAS now, was then… he’s gone.