The Cincinnati Reds have signed free agent outfielder Tommy Pham according to Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The deal is a 1-year big league one that includes a mutual option for the 2023 season.
Pham, a 34-year-old outfielder, had three strong season from 2017-2019 when he hit .284/.381/.475 in 410 games for the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays. He struggled in 2020 while playing in just 31 games – missing half of the season after breaking his hamate bone. Over that offseason he was stabbed in the back, literally, and required 200 stitches. He recovered from the assault and rebounded on the field some, too, hitting .229/.340/.383 with the San Diego Padres. His .724 OPS was good for a 103 OPS+, which is ever so slightly above league average. He also stole 14 bases in his 155 games, which would have easily led the Reds, who didn’t have a single player in double digits in the stolen base column last season.
Historically he’s hit lefties better than righties – .854 OPS against lefties, .794 OPS against righties – but that wasn’t the case in 2021. Last season he hit .239/.337/.399 against righties and just .202/.351/.339 against lefties. Diving into some of his other splits we see that he was much better on the road than he was at home, with a .787 to .662 OPS advantage outside of Petco Park. What isn’t great to see is that he was also significantly better in the first half last year than the second half last year. In the first half he posted a .773 OPS, but saw it dip for a .649 OPS in the second half. That also saw him steal just two bases in 66 games during the second half, though he was playing through some things down the stretch.
What Tommy Pham does bring to the Reds, though, is an outfielder who has actually played a full season in the outfield. After losing Nick Castellanos in free agency and trading away Jesse Winker to Seattle, Cincinnati was looking at Tyler Naquin as the guy with the most starts in a season in the outfield with 120.
David Bell had said after the Winker trade that the starting outfield was likely going to be Nick Senzel in center and Tyler Naquin in one of the corners. With the other corner spot seemingly up for grabs to Aristides Aquino, Jake Fraley, Shogo Akiyama, TJ Friedl, Max Schrock, or perhaps a platoon-like split, maybe the Reds are going to be taking away some of that opportunity with the signing of Pham.
Another thing that Tommy Pham brings to the Reds is a guy who draws plenty of walks. He’s always had a quality walk rate, but in 2021 he posted a career best 13.9% walk rate. Among the players with Cincinnati last year only Joey Votto’s 14.4% walk rate was higher. His strikeout rate of 22.8% was right around the league average (21.6%). Pham has also been a hitter who utilizes the entire field throughout his career. That could play quite well in Great American Ball Park.