(Busch Stadium) Last season, Tommy Pham was arguably the Most Valuable Player on the St. Louis Cardinals. Now a year later, the team has traded him to Tampa in exchange for three minor league prospects.
“We stated all along that we were looking to create some opening in our outfield and when you look at where we were, I think staying status quo was not getting it done,” explained President of Baseball Operations John Mozeliak. “Obviously, trying to create opportunity also for O’Neill and Bader was something we thought we needed to do. So when we were looking at all our options, the one thing we felt gave us some future hope was to try and move Tommy now.”
After batting .341 in March/April, Pham saw back to back months with his average below .200 as he tried to work through a glitch in his swing that he felt prevented him from swinging through the ball. Of late, he was having more success at the plate–driving in a season-high 15 runs this past month.
But Pham is also 30 years old, eligible for arbitration after this season, and unlike Dexter Fowler did not have any kind of trade protection. As the Cardinals sought to add left-handed outfield bats to their organization while also providing more time for Harrison Bader and Tyler O’Neill, Pham was the player available to deal.
As for speculation that earlier comments from Pham in a Sports Illustrated article this spring may have initiated the trade, both the outfielder and team dismissed the notion.
“No, no nothing,” stated Mozeliak, shaking his head. “It had to do with again with creating some opportunity for others. Look, performance matters, too. Tommy was someone that, really sort of as a front office, we were one of his biggest advocates. He was in the organization for 12 years–injured a lot, lots of ups and downs, but in the end we were the ones who believed in him.
“Most people that have his track record don’t make it here. I mean, I think it’s a lot of his perseverance for sure and his talent. But I do feel like a lot of people have asked about what was said earlier in the year, if we were offended. You can ask Tommy, I spoke to him two or three days after that article came out and he asked me if I was mad at him. I wasn’t mad. I told him, if you really felt like we gave up on you–what if we had?
“For that, I think people are just reading in to it. I wish him well. These kind of days are never fun. You certainly want to be in a position where you’re putting your club in a place that you feel is going to be competitive. I think if you look over the course of the last 2 1/2 weeks, changes we’ve made at the managerial level, the coaching level, and now shaking up the bullpen, we feel this is something that’s going to breathe some life into this team and hopefully we can get on that run.”
Moving forward, centerfield will be patrolled by Bader and O’Neill. How much playing time each will receive or what kind of rotation they share will not be exact.
“I would imagine you’re going to see like three games a week for one, four for another,” said Mozeliak. “Also whenever you can give Ozuna a day off, you now have that opportunity in left and you can also do that in right with Fowler. I think just trying to find that balance, but when you have five guys for three spots it’s a lot harder than four for three.”
photo credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports, Brian Stull/STLBaseballWeekly.com