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Rays acquire Tommy Pham from Cardinals

The Cardinals deal with their outfield logjam by sending Tommy Pham to the Rays.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at San Francisco Giants Photo by John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

The Rays have acquired outfielder Tommy Pham and international slot money from the Cardinals for prospects Justin Williams, Genesis Cabrera, and Roel Ramirez, as Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan, the New York Post’s Joel Sherman, and MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand reported early Tuesday morning:

The 30-year-old Pham, who finally worked his way into a full-time starting job last year after 11 years spent mostly in the minor leagues, has struggled to reach the level of success he had in 2017 this year. He posted a .306/.411/.520 slash line with 23 homers and 25 steals while playing excellent defense in the outfield and finishing 11th in NL MVP voting last year, but this year he has a pedestrian .248/.331/.399 line with 14 home runs while recording -5 defensive runs saved in center field.

He’s an interesting addition to the Rays’ outfield mix, which seemingly consists entirely of center fielders. With Kevin Kiermaier and Mallex Smith being better defenders than Pham, the former Cardinal will likely settle into a corner spot. Veteran Carlos Gomez will probably be pushed out of the Rays’ everyday outfield mix following Pham’s arrival. While the Rays have overwhelmingly been sellers this season, Pham gives them the one thing they always desire — club control. He isn’t eligible for free agency until after the 2021 season, meaning they almost certainly will be able to have him for the rest of his prime if they so desire.

With Pham gone from St. Louis, rookie Harrison Bader is likely to take over the Cardinals’ center field job. He should provide a defensive upgrade there; Bader, who has played 451.2 innings across all three outfield spots this year, has the third-most defensive runs saved (15) in baseball among outfielders with at least 450 innings played, trailing only JaCoby Jones and Lorenzo Cain. Triple-A slugger Tyler O’Neill figures to be promoted and spell Bader, Dexter Fowler, and Marcell Ozuna the rest of the way, while Jose Martinez and Yairo Munoz could also factor into the mix.

The 22-year-old Williams, ranked as the Rays’ No. 14 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was the top prospect included in the deal. The left-handed hitter made his major-league debut earlier this season, going hitless in his only at-bat. This year at Triple-A Durham, he’s posted a .258/.313/.376 slash line with eight homers. He’s considered a plus defender, though he’s been limited almost exclusively to the corner spots during his minor-league career, playing 366 games in right, 109 in left field, and one in center.

Cabrera, a 21-year-old left-hander, was listed as the Rays’ No. 25 prospect in Pipeline’s rankings. He has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, but he hasn’t been particularly great at Double-A Montgomery this season. Over 21 games (20 starts), he’s thrown for a 4.12 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with 124 strikeouts and 57 walks over 113.2 innings.

Ramirez, 23, is a right-handed reliever who has spent most of this season at Montgomery. The 2013 eighth-round pick has a 2.53 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 60 strikeouts and 17 walks over 53.1 innings this season — he’s made 26 appearances, including one start, at Double-A and previously pitched in eight games with High-A Charlotte. He was not ranked among the club’s top 30 prospects by Pipeline.