Why Tommy Pham Fits Exactly What the Mariners Need

Curtis Christianson
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 28: Tommy Pham #28 of the San Diego Padres walks back to the dugout after hitting a fly ball during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics at Petco Park on July 28, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 28: Tommy Pham #28 of the San Diego Padres walks back to the dugout after hitting a fly ball during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Oakland Athletics at Petco Park on July 28, 2021 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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The Seattle Mariners made two large moves before the labor negotiations lockout began, freezing all transactions. The team added Adam Frazier as a boost to the offense, but the Mariners still need to add more position players to their team. They need to add just a few players who aren’t the Kris Bryants or Trevor Storys, but the average players that are more consistent than Jake Fraley or Dylan Moore. A perfect fit for this role is outfielder Tommy Pham.

Tommy Pham was a late bloomer, he did not make his major league debut until he was 26. He has spent time with the Cardinals, Rays, and most recently Padres. An outfielder who has been very stable for the past few years. He had a breakout season in 2017 for St. Louis, and then some very nice years with the Rays where he posted an average of over 130 OPS+ from 2017-2019. Pham struggled in the short season in 2020, but it has proven to be such an outlier for many.

Tommy Pham returned to average quality play in 2021, playing in 155 games, a career-high. He had a .724 OPS, which in comparison is one point higher than Kyle Seager. He had a nice year with a 114 wRC+ according to Fangraphs, he hit 15 home runs, stole 14 bags, and had an on-base percentage of .340. He also posted a 1.5 WAR season according to Fangraphs and was all around an at least minimally above-average player across the board.

By comparison, Pham was over 60 points better than Dylan Moore in on-base percentage, 50 better in slugging, and over 30 points better in OPS+. Jake Bauers, Dylan Moore, Jose Marmolejos, and Jake Fraley all contributed significant time in the Seattle outfield last year. The Mariners cannot put those players out there again and expect to win 90 games, or close to that number.

Not only has Tommy Pham put up solid numbers, but he also profiles well by advanced metrics. He does what Jerry Dipoto wants his players to do by controlling the zone. He had an above-average strikeout rate and a well above average walk rate in 2021. Pham also hits the ball hard, harder than average, which is a good sign that he isn’t losing his hitting ability as he gets older. Pham also has an above-average sprint speed, which should slow down as he ages, but is still a plus.

This is Where Tommy Pham Fits

If played in the correct role, Tommy Pham can be a really nice player for the Mariners. He will almost certainly not be a player who produces a 130 wRC+, but if played correctly and puts up anywhere from a 100-110 wRC+, that is a big-time upgrade for the Mariners. Part of playing Pham in the best way possible means understanding that he is a reverse split player. This means that he hits right-handing pitching better than left-handing pitching, which is rare for a right-handed hitter.

Tommy Pham can be the type of player that plays fairly regularly but is not going to be the player that makes or breaks the offense on a nightly basis. There is some hope that he can rebound against lefties since he has not been below average against them since 2017. If he is average against them, that is good news for Seattle. Against righties, he is slightly above league average, so he can be a pretty good match versus some of the top righties the Mariners will face.

The perfect role that Pham would fill in 2022, would be the left-field role that was usually filled by Jake Fraley and Dylan Moore in 2021. The two combined for nearly 100 games in left field last year. If the Mariners played Tommy Pham for 100 games in left field, with a handful mixed in at center field and designated hitter, then he would be a very good fit. He could easily slot into the 5th or 6th spot in the lineup.

Now, the type of contract that Pham should receive from the Mariners is a one-year deal, since he will be 34 next season. The Mariners could offer him a one-year deal for probably about 10-15 million dollars. That would probably be what he is worth and give them a better option for left field. This deal would be a good one for both sides since Pham would get fairly regular playing time, and also the Mariners get a solid contributor to strengthen their lineup.

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If Tommy Pham is what Jake Fraley was to the Mariners last year, that is absolutely perfect. Pham as a 4th outfielder who plays most of the time, but isn’t expected to carry the load, would be great. Pham can easily be an average player for Seattle, which fits the need for the team perfectly.

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