The trade deadline is, obviously, a time for deliberate buying and selling in order for franchises to improve themselves in the short and long term. The best organizations, however, find a way to both at the same time.
With their deadline-day deal, the Rays have placed themselves firmly into that category. While they’d already shipped out righthanded starters Nathan Eovaldi (Red Sox) and Matt Andriese (D-backs) and were expected to make more deals during the the deadline’s final hours, they also spent some prospects in exchange for a cheap, controllable outfielder, as well as international bonus pool money.
By acquiring Tommy Pham, who is in the middle of a down season after a breakout 2017 campaign, Tampa Bay is buying low on a player they believe could be a part of a future that, judging by its enviable farm system, looks considerably bright.
Tommy Pham, OF
Pham hinted at his potential last year with the Cardinals, when he put together a stellar .306/.411/.520 season over 128 games. He’ll enter 2019 arbitration-eligible for the first time, and isn’t a free agent until after the 2021 season. Pham played center field with St. Louis, but is almost certain to shift to a corner in Tampa Bay with Kevin Kiermaier firmly entrenched in center. He adds upside to a group that has given significant at-bats this season to both Mallex Smith and Carlos Gomez.
Justin Williams, OF
Williams was originally acquired from the D-backs with shortstop Andrew Velazquez in exchange for righthander Jeremy Hellickson. He’s always hinted at potential through a series of loud tools, but it’s never quite come together all at once. His best tools are his plus or better throwing arm as well as above-average raw power that hasn’t manifested itself in games. He’s working toward improving himself enough in the outfield to become an average defender and will need to add lift to his swing to begin tapping into his power potential. If it all comes together, he has the makings of an everyday corner bat. If not, he could still have a role as a backup in the major leagues.
Genesis Cabrera, LHP
Although he still has a ground to make up as far as control and command are concerned, Cabrera was still the owner of one of the Rays’ system’s most electric arms. He brings a low-to mid-90s fastball with riding life from the left side and couples the pitch with a slider that has flashed plus this year. His 124 strikeouts in 113.2 innings are second in the Southern League behind only Jackson’s Taylor Widener (D-backs). Scouts are split on Cabrera’s future, with some seeing a late-game reliever while others see a pitcher with the upside of a mid-rotation starter if everything comes together.
Roel Ramirez, RHP
The third player in the Cardinals’ return is a relief-only prospect, but one who brings an explosive, mid-90s fastball to the table. He was Tampa Bay’s eighth-rounder out of high school in Laredo, Texas in 2013. He couples a fastball with a slider and split-fingered fastball, neither of which is average at this point.