Several questions are surrounding the San Diego Padres this winter.
General manager A.J. Preller will have his hands full as he attempts to restructure the roster into a playoff-caliber team. There are also questions about management and the coaching staff and who should be responsible for cultivating the talent at the major league level.
Jayce Tingler may or may not be the man to lead this talented baseball team. Only time will tell what the Padres will do in this regard.
The Padres have a few key players that could test the free-agent waters this winter. Mark Melancon has a mutual option with the team, while outfielder Tommy Pham is due for free agency. Melancon will likely refuse his $5 million mutual option for 2022. The closer could hit the open market in November/December. Pham is free to negotiate with anyone and could be of interest to playoff contention teams.
Bringing back Pham is no slam dunk as the Padres could go several different routes in 2022.
Let’s take a look at Tommy Pham as we analyze the situation.
The Padres need clubhouse guys- players with character. The collapse of 2021 is very troubling. Pham grinded his whole career to get where he is in the game. Players respect the way he conducts himself as he provides no excuses for his play. With Tommy Pham in the clubhouse, you can be sure the players are being policed. In the modern game of baseball, a player of his kind is rare.
Despite an overall mediocre season, Pham showed great offensive ability in stretches. During June, the right-handed hitter recorded a 1.074 OPS going 30-for-88 (.341 average) with six homers. The outfielder produced that month and helped lead the Padres when the offense was struggling. If the Padres can get that kind of production from Pham, he would be more than serviceable. Pham put up a 1.4 WAR in 2021. Nothing to write home to mom about, but still respectable in a season where he battled injuries virtually all year long.
Tommy Pham has never really been paid well. He made $8.9 million in 2021 and has made only $21.9 million over his entire five-year career, which started at his age 28 season. To put it bluntly- he wants to get paid. He deserves to get paid. I expected a huge offense year from Pham in a contract year that just took place, but that never happened. Tommy Pham on a one-year deal with incentives could be a deal the Padres cannot afford to walk away from. Pham probably feels there is unfinished business with the Padres and would probably welcome the challenge of returning to San Diego.
Age and production are two red flags. Pham will be 34 next season and is slowing down on the field. There is no fountain of youth for Pham. His age is what it is. But, there is hope that a healthy Tommy Pham can return into a decent fielder. There will be no requirement for center field duties, so there is no reason not to believe Pham cannot improve with the glove.
The bat is also a concern as Pham recorded a .229/.340/.383 batting line in 155 games for the Padres in 2021. He managed 78 walks on the year but did also struggle with consistency. His .724 overall OPS on the year was well below his average and his numbers with the bat are trending in the wrong direction.
The talk of Pham’s clubhouse presence could be premature as he was there when the team collapsed at the end of the season. Pham was quiet then and did not say much about his team and their play. The outfielder seemed clearly angered with sporadic playing time and his frustrations may have been a factor in the failures of this squad.
At this point, the Padres have issues in several departments. Pham was liked and respected in the locker room for his no-nonsense attitude, but it will ultimately come down to price for the San Diego Padres. The team is trying to save money and cannot afford a multiple-year deal with Pham. If he agrees to an incentive-based deal at only one year, then the Padres may have minimal interest.
Ultimately, the Padres will likely move on from Tommy Pham. There are too many unknown variables determining his value. Can he stay healthy? Are his downward trending offensive numbers a sign that he is at the end of his career? The Padres can take some risks with the roster in 2021, but Pham seems like an unnecessary risk.