When the Mets went hunting for a fourth outfielder this past offseason, a lot of players passed over the role because of the lack of playing time perceived from being a fourth outfielder on a team with three established, veteran players in the three outfield spots. And so, when Tommy Pham signed, it didn’t exactly elicit a ton of praise from the Mets fanbase.
This is also somewhat colored by Pham’s past, which includes slapping Joc Pederson over fantasy football, threatening Luke Voit with martial arts, and that time he got stabbed outside of a strip club. Couple that with a few years of decline, and the Pham signing seemed like a slightly disappointing, but probably fine, bench addition. He wasn’t Trey Mancini or Andrew McCutchen, but he’d be ok.
Thus far, Pham has been better than ok: he’s been the eighth most valuable player on the team by bWAR with 0.3 already in the short season. He’s batting .281/.361/.500 with a pair each of home runs and stolen bases. In yesterday’s game against the A’s. his opposite field power led to the first run of the game, and a walk in the ninth loaded the bases in what was, ultimately, a failed scoring attempt.
He’s also been valuable from a load management standpoint. Without a dedicated right-handed designated hitter on the roster, Pham has been able to both serve that role on a pair of occasions, and also spell Mark Canha and Brandon Nimmo by playing the outfield and allowing them either a day off or a game in the DH spot. It was mentioned on the SNY broadcast last week that the Mets’ front office wants to give Mark Canha lots of ‘time off his feet’ this season, and so he makes sense to be a semi-regular at DH, giving a path to more Pham in left. Of course, Jeff McNeil’s versatility can also be used here, and give either Eduardo Escobar or Luis Guillorme time at second while McNeil plays the outfield, but having a player from both sides of the plate that can do this is especially helpful.
The other piece of this puzzle is that, with today’s call-up of Brett Baty, the Mets are going to have to both find more playing time for Eduardo Escobar and manipulate the roster somehow. With Tim Locastro rostered specifically for late-inning pinch running, he seems like the most likely person to go and, if he does, Pham will likely become that go-to runner. This will mean less plate appearances most likely, but may maximize his speed tool.
This season has been a very stolen base-heavy one thus far, and due to the new disengagements rule, it isn’t just the elite base stealers that are succeeding, and so somewhat like Pham, who has decent speed and can hit a bit and can play a few outfield positions is infinitely more valuable than Locastro, who is better at base running, defensively about the same, but without Pham’s power or bat to ball skills. If the steal is easier to come by, players like Locastro have less value on the roster.
Regardless of how he is used going forward, Pham has been a pleasant addition to the team thus far, and his versatility will likely continue to bring value to the team in a number of ways this season. Injuries, load management, dry spells, and matchups will get him into plenty of games.