The Red Sox won’t be exercising their end of Tommy Pham’s $12MM mutual option for 2023, Julian McWilliams of The Boston Globe reports. Pham gets a $1.5MM buyout on the option, and becomes a free agent.
It was a tough season for Pham, who may have received more attention for a fantasy football-related altercation with Joc Pederson than for anything he did on the field in 2022. Pham hit .236/.312/.374 over 622 combined plate appearances with the Reds and Red Sox, with Pham coming to Boston at the trade deadline. The acquisition seemed a little unusual given that the Sox were on the outskirts of the playoff race and had already dealt away Christian Vazquez in a seeming “seller” move, yet the Red Sox were hopeful that Pham and Eric Hosmer (picked up in another deal from the Padres) could help spark a late-season run.
Unfortunately, as Boston as well as in Cincinnati, Pham couldn’t translate his 89th percentile hard-hit ball rate into consistent production. Pham didn’t help his cause with a 26.8% strikeout rate (his highest since the 2016 season) that included a lot of extra pitches chased outside the strike zone without any success. His nine percent walk rate was still above the league average, yet well below the 90th-percentile average that Pham previously posted during his career.
Vision problems may have contributed to this down season, as Pham has been dealing with keratoconus (a cornea-thinning eye issue) for several years, but he told McWilliams that he believes he now has the problem corrected. This is hardly the first or most serious health problem Pham has had to overcome, as he was the victim of a stabbing incident in October 2020.
Pham expressed an interest in returning to Boston, which may yet be a possibility given the uncertainty in the outfield picture. Enrique Hernandez and Alex Verdugo look like the only regulars in place, and even Verdugo might not be a safe bet given some recent trade speculation. It remains to be seen if the Red Sox might look to bolster the outfield with a star-level everyday regular, or if they could perhaps add a complementary or part-time veteran to allow for mixing and matching at-bats for Jarren Duran and Rob Refsnyder. In general, the Sox could just be looking for more power in the outfield, which might not bode well for Pham given his modest slugging percentages in the last three seasons.