Almost a year ago, I wrote “Could Tommy Pham be the answer in center?” It wasn’t a very popular opinion at the time because Pham was somewhat of an unknown to Cardinals fans. He was having a pretty solid season and was staying healthy, something he hasn’t been good at in his career. Things changed in late July when Pham was shelved for the remained of the 2013 season, a step back for sure. For 2014, Pham has been healthy and is having a career year, a career that spans 7 full seasons, which is an important number (we will get to that in a minute).
So, again I ask, “Could Tommy Pham be he answer in center?”
Things aren’t as dire as they were 12 months ago. John Jay has a pretty impressive 1.1 bWAR thus far and Peter Bourjos has provided solid defense when he can get on the field. Oscar Taveras has made a couple of starts in center, and while that’s not ideal, it helps the struggling lineup. So, what would Pham bring to the table that is not already there?
I believe Pham would bring an impressive offensive/defensive combo that neither Jay, nor Bourjos possess. In just under 200 AB’s this year for Memphis, Pham is hitting .322 with an OPS of .915. Pham’s speed is evident from his 4 triples and 9 stolen bases. He has the extra base prowess of Taveras, contact rate of Jay, and speed and defense of Bourjos. Unfortunately, he has the injury history of Jaime Garcia.
It has to be frustrating for the Cardinals organization to have a guy with so much ability get injured so often. I am not sure how much they would be willing to risk it by having Pham on the roster. His playing time as is, is limited in Memphis thanks to three other MLB quality players in Randal Grichuk, Stephen Piscotty, and Shane Robinson. It appears that Pham is the fourth priority of those four.
As I mentioned earlier, Pham has completed seven minor league seasons. What that means is he will become a minor league free-agent after this season if he is not added to the club’s 40 man roster. He would then be able to sign a minor league deal with another club, and why wouldn’t he? Not many, if any at all, have the outfield depth the Cardinals have. A 40 man roster spot may be a longshot as Stephen Piscotty doesn’t have one either.
It will be interesting to see what happens this summer. Do the Cards add him to the 40 man in hopes that he can stay healthy? If that is the case I would bet he gets a late season call up in September. Or, does the club not risk the injury concern and part ways with him this offseason?