Tommy Pham’s time with the Padres hasn’t gone as he or the organization would’ve hoped at the time of his acquisition from the Rays. The 33-year-old outfielder missed a chunk of “Summer Camp” last July after testing positive for Covid-19, and he suffered a broken hamate bone mid-August, limiting him to just 31 games. Even more alarming was a frightening offseason scene in which Pham was stabbed outside a San Diego club — a life-threatening attack that required 200 stitches and left the outfielder with a footlong scar on his back.
Pham, remarkably, managed to participate in Spring Training and was able to take the field come Opening Day for the Padres. It marked an incredible recovery, but it’s clear that that wave of health issues has taken its toll on Pham. Through 150 games and 553 plate appearances, Pham has posted just a .229/.342/.383 batting line. He’s drawing walks at a career-high 14.1 percent clip, but he’s also striking out at high highest rate since 2018 (22.8 percent) and hasn’t matched the power he showed from 2016-19. Given that Pham is set to hit the open market at season’s end, the combined .226/.336/.370 slash he’s delivered in two years with the Padres is all the more disappointing.
In a postgame interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune’s Annie Heilbrunn (YouTube link), Pham was candid in discussing his health, his own lackluster performance and the second-half collapse of his team. Asked about the Padres’ descent from what looked like a surefire playoff club to a team fighting to finish .500, Pham placed no shortage of blame on himself.
“I didn’t play well enough,” Pham said when asked what went wrong for the Padres. “…I’ve got to be a more consistent hitter. I’ve got to work on regaining my strength and speed this offseason. I have a lot to work on.”
Obviously, the Padres’ nosedive in the standings is related to far more than just a disappointing season for Pham, who couldn’t have anything resembling a normal offseason while recovering from surgery in the wake of that stabbing. However, Pham’s acknowledgement regarding his speed and strength (or lack thereof) is indeed borne out when looking at his Statcast profile.
Pham’s average exit velocity dropped by a hefty 1.9 mph in spite of the fact that his percentage of “barreled” balls improved from 7.3 percent to 10.1 percent. As Pham explains to Heilbrunn: “…even the balls I’ve been barreling, the exit velocity just ain’t there.”
From a speed perspective, Pham is still a better runner than the average big leaguer, but his sprint speed of 27.8 feet per second is down from last year’s 28.2 ft/sec and down more handily from the 28.7 ft/sec he posted in each season from 2016-19. It should be noted that Pham’s 90.9 mph exit velocity and 27.8 ft/sec sprint speed still rank in the 78th and 70th percentiles among big league players.
It’s all led to a stark downturn in performance for Pham, who from 2017-19 was among the game’s most underrated players. A 2017 breakout saw him post a huge .306/.411/.520 batting line with 23 homers and 25 steals in just 530 plate appearances/128 games. Pham largely sustained his production in his two subsequent healthy seasons, wrapping that three-year stretch up with a composite .284/.381/.475 line. He was worth 13.5 and 13.8 wins above replacement, respectively, in the estimation of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs during that time.
Had Pham reached the market on the heels of that three-year run, he’d have been extremely well compensated. But as a late-bloomer who didn’t get an earnest look with the Cardinals until 2017, at age 29, Pham will instead reach free agency headed into his age-34 campaign and on the heels of a pair of highly unfortunate seasons. He’s realistic about the toll these past two years have likely taken on his market.
“I didn’t have the season I was expecting,” says Pham. “I’m fully prepared to take a one-year deal and reestablish my market.”
[Related: 2021-22 MLB Free Agent List]
That’s a tough proposition for a player entering his mid-30s, however. Pham will be 34 next March, so even if he indeed reestablishes himself as a quality all-around corner outfielder, he’ll do so in advance of his age-35 campaign.
Given the manner in which teams are increasingly reluctant to sign mid-30s and late-30s players to lucrative multi-year deals, it’s fair to question just what type of ceiling would be placed on Pham’s earning power even if he does rebound in full. Michael Brantley inked a two-year, $32MM contract covering his age-34 and age-35 seasons after playing for three years at a roughly three- to four-win pace, however, so there’s some recent precedent for a corner outfielder in this age bracket commanding a rather lucrative multi-year pact.
Of course, any such talk is putting the cart before the horse. Pham’s focus in the offseason will be both getting back into peak physical condition and finding the best opportunity for the 2022 season. It’s not out of the question that teams would have some interest on a multi-year contract, given Pham’s prior excellence. Pham, however, sounded plenty confident in his ability to rebound from these past couple seasons and position himself for a stronger annual value in future trips to the market. Unsurprisingly, he made clear that he’d welcome the opportunity to do so with the Padres, though he gave no indication any such negotiations have taken place just yet.
Big fan of Pham’s but between his eyesight issues and other injuries, you just can’t count on him as an everyday outfielder. I doubt a reunion with St. Louis is possible but as a Cards fan I think he’d be a great 3.5/4th outfielder to have. Likely wouldn’t be worth the cost, though. I hope he lands on his feet and is able to bounce back.
I guess it depends on the cost. If I’m gonna take a flyer on a player, I’ll take an attitude like Pham’s pretty much any day. Seems like he’s willing to put forth the effort.
I don’t really get this “He’s done” comment. We’re talking about a 1.5WAR player this year that has a WRC+ of 102.
Was he really disappointing? Yeah he was 100% a letdown because SD thought they were getting the 3.5WAR player with a WRC+ of 123 that he was in 2019.
That doesn’t mean his career is over. He’s still a roughly league average offensive producer. His pay is going to reflect that when he signs somewhere this off-season but he’s not like on the verge of washing out or anything.
Can he still cover all three OF positions? If so that’s a pretty good 4th OF to have on hand.
Curly Was The Smart Stooge
Head for the Pirates, We are Ph-amily
And be sure to stay away from those iffy phamaceuticals, bad drugs suck
Anyone who has had a bad injury knows how you can get recurring, almost phantom, pain where you got hurt. And being cut badly enough in a stabbing to have a 12″ scar? Ignore scar tissue issues/fibroid, that’s a good deal of nerve damage.
You have to admire the work ethic and drive, but, the body and pain are what they are. We can wish him the best and root for him though.
My guess is it becomes a couple year to year deals here on out, maybe a couple year pact at the end after that if proven but at a fairly low value because of age
Someday I’d like to know the whole story on this guy.
One day, I Googled stuff like “Tommy Pham’s father and mother.” I found his father’s name, and saw a long criminal history readily accessible online. On top of that, the latest one was with a minor!
Apparently Tommy’s sister is in touch with the father and has tried to get Tommy to talk to him. I guess the dude has been bad news since he was a teenager and impregnated Tommy’s mother.
While given a bad deal to start with, he’s a major leaguer now, he’s got money and means and he still acts like he’s got an issue. If he can’t psychologically put a distance between that and where he’s at now, it just shows that he’s not willing to deal with it.
The strip club frequenting, well, that’s full-on idiot. That strip club is one of the few street prostitution areas still in San Diego…
That doesn’t make any sense. He doesn’t talk to his father because he doesn’t want the distraction and doesn’t think his father deserves to be a part of his life. If cutting that man out of his life isn’t a way to “psychologically put a distance between that and where he’s at now” I’m not sure what is.
Okay, my education gives me a psychological insight that I’m not bothering to elaborate on here. You seem to be a Pham apologist; so I’m not going to spell it out, but he does have a track record with going around with a chip on his shoulder and giving people grief. In San Diego, he has been a minor clubhouse cancer. He’s not the worst, but he sure tries. He also gives wait staff and service industry people grief, he also has a reputation in town for being very gruff and short tempered.
There have been articles that seem to make it a racial thing, I haven’t heard anything directly about that elsewhere.
Gonna need to see a source on him giving wait staff and service industry people grief
You said a bunch of irrelevant stuff.
Can you fix the sentence between the word ‘it’s clear’ & ‘wave of’, you put ‘that’ twice? Please & thank you.
“It marked an incredible recovery, but it’s clear ‘that that’ wave of health issues has taken its toll on Pham”.
Nothing wrong with the way he wrote it It was clear that “that” wave of health issues. – might have been a tad clearer if he put “that the wave of health issues” but I believe it is correct as written.
Actually, two consecutive “that”s is correct English in that sentence. So I think that that sentence requires no correction (although one that would also have been OK).
JFC, imagine being this guy.
Oh My God Who The Hell Cares?
– Peter Griffin
Between the word ‘it’s clear’ & ‘wave of’, you put ‘that’ twice, can you fix the sentence? Please & thank you.
“It marked an incredible recovery, but it’s clear ‘that that’ wave of health issues has taken its toll on Pham”.
@JosipTomic, Bernard’s Uncle
There’s nothing grammatically wrong with using “that that”- fact.
Pham has been a major disappointment for the Padres. Best of luck to him with his next team.
Disappointment as a Padre, but I’d take him again on a 1 year say 6M deal and let him prove himself.
I’m not sure he is worth 3 million
Stay out of strip bars which was not mentioned in the article just a CLUB.Im sure with his money you don’t need to go to those places to meet women and put yourself at risk.
I doubt he was trying to meet women, but regardless he’s an adult and can do what he wants. Kinda goofy to blame Pham for being stabbed.
I’m guessing here, but most of the strip clubs I’ve heard other people attend, are quite a bit sleezier than the regular joints they visit.
Unlikely a patron would have stabbed him with a steak knife, at Ruth’s Chris…Not his fault, but he put himself at risk.
Well you are very uninformed. MANY athletes go to strip clubs. Practically the entire NBA has been seen in them. Mo Vaughn and the foxylady. Wow…
AJ Preller is a fan of debilitating conditions and loves to overpay for underperformance. He went and got Matt Kemp with a bad hip and he acquired Tommy Pham with really bad eyes.
Pham lost a bit of spring training trying to adjust with his frequently adjusted contact lenses…
That whole incident outside the strip club was exasperated by the fact that there was a pandemic going on. What in the hell was he doing going out to a place like that (ALONE) when covid was flying around like mosquitoes near a lake? The dude isn’t smart. He fulfills the stereotype of a lot of Las Vegas natives… I HAVE LIVED THERE, I CAN SAY THAT 🙂
Add on top of it and attitude partially culled from a life with a father who’s in prison for a conviction of sexual issues with a minor… Hey, I get it, he’s had a tough life and it ain’t all his fault. He does go around with a chip on his shoulder and it does come off and how he relates to his teammates. Even at a distance, it is that obvious.
AJ Preller, with all that Wonderkid bull, has depleted a farm system. Sure, he acquired Fernando Tatis (for James Shields and something like $20-$30M), but he had Trea Turner already in the system!
Eh, the Padres have screwed up on so many levels, I can’t even hear their games at my San Diego County home on the radio because some guy made a sweetheart deal with his buddies who had an FM station as part of their network in this area.
White Sox, I’m calling it now. I’d rather have someone younger and better in RF, but I could realistically see them signing Pham and I also like his fire. He also wouldn’t have to play every day with us, which would help him a lot I think.
AJ Preller gave Jurickson Profar $21m, Pham should be worth double that. #rockstar
They had to sign Profar because he backs up 2nd. You can’t survive in this environment with only Cronenworth, Kim and Frazier as your 2Bs.
While I give Preller full credit for having developed a great farm system, he reminds me of some of those guys at the local poker game, who were great at generating money, but lousy at keeping it.
Outside of Tatis what has that farm produced?
He is literally the only position player on the roster from their farm.
Pitching wise I guess there is Paddack?
Even going back to Preller’s Texas days who did they graduate? Elvis Andrus? Profar? Odor?
Preller’s actual track record is comical.
@DiegoDuder Bro, are you ever going to provide evidence to support your claim that Manny Machado doesn’t sign with the Padres if they don’t sign Eric Hosmer first?
Diegoduder I would not under any circumstance take the list of names you put out there and call it “plenty of talent”
We can say that those guys are solid big leaguers but they excelled only when they got out from under the crap development system apparently in place in San Diego.
That Padres ownership is going to apparently continue with Preller into 2022 is sad. His tenure is longer than every GM in baseball except for Rick Hahn, Brian Cashman & Mike Rizzo. It’s ridiculous that he is still getting chances.
@JoeBrady “Had to” sign Profar? What exactly is it that you think would have happened if they hadn’t signed Profar?
Pham is not an everyday player but he would be a good 4th on any team
Let him walk Preller. He’s been a major disappointment on the field (June 2021 and 2020 Wild Card series game 2 noteithstanding) and has been a distraction off the field.
Another in a series of bad trades by AJ Preller for the Padres. Tommy Pham was on his downside. when Preller traded for him.
Preller has traded 30+ prospects for older veterans who were injury prone and in career declining production.
Jurickson Profar was another waste of top prospects for a high salaried under performing veteran who has never lived up to his billing. as a top prospect.
AJ is a sucker for veteran players especially ex Rangers who don’t produce.
Preller has also reloaded farm systems in Tampa, Cleveland, Seattle and more for questionable acquisitions.
Extending Preller before the season ended and before the Padres epic collapse was
colossally stupid by Padres ownership.
“Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.
Way to go and tank Padres with a high payroll probably double the Payroll of the Rays.”. and give away a huge chunk of your farm system for injured, broken down veterans on the downside of their careers with large contracts.