The purge continues.
The St. Louis Cardinals traded outfielder Tommy Pham to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor-league pitchers Genesis Cabrera and Roel Ramirez and outfielder Justin Williams. The Rays also receive international spending money.
The official announcement came less than four hours ahead of Major League Baseball’s non-waiver trade deadline, which is at 3 p.m. Tuesday. The Cardinals have promoted Memphis outfielder Tyler O’Neill, who has a .311 average and 61 RBIs to go with his Pacific Coast League-leading 26 home runs.
Williams, 22, is a left-handed hitting outfielder who was batting .258 with eight home runs and 46 RBI for the Durham Bulls (AAA), where earlier this season he was named an International League All-Star. The 6-2, 215 pound Williams is a former second-round draft pick by Arizona (52nd overall) in 2013. He made his big league debut earlier this month.
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Cabrera, 21, is 7-6 mark with a 4.12 ERA in 21 games, 20 of them starts, for Montgomery of the Double-A Southern League. He has struck out 124 batters in 113.2 innings pitched while limiting the opposition to a .218 batting average. The 6-1, 170-pound native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, was a Southern League all-star.
Ramirez, 23, was 3-1 with a 3.32 ERA in 26 games as a reliever for the Montgomery Biscuits, striking out 46 batters in 40.2 innings.
Pham’s breakout 2017 was strong enough to displace Dexter Fowler, who had been signed to a five-year free agent contract to play center field the offseason before. The 30-year-old entered the season as the everyday center fielder and centerpiece of a refurbished Cardinals outfield that was thought to be a team strength with the addition of slugger Marcell Ozuna.
But Pham’s struggles since the first month of the season typify the frustrations of an underachieving team.
After starting strong with a .348 average in March and April, Pham slipped to a .195 for May and .198 in June. He’s currently batting .248 with 14 home runs and 41 RBIs.
During the Cardinals annual Winter Warm-Up in January, Pham said his goal for 2018 was 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases.
But shortly after breaking spring training camp, he attracted controversy with an explosive interview with Sports Illustrated slamming the team for repeated demotions to Triple-A Memphis, even as other young players continued to struggle. He confessed that he “zoned out” at the end of 2016 and considered quitting.
“The guys are still struggling, (Randal) Grichuk, Dex (Dexter Fowler), (Stephen) Piscotty. And I’m still balling!” he said in SI. “So finally I said, ‘They’re not gonna (expletive) call me up? (Expletive) it, and I zoned out in Triple A. Every day I was just like, (expletive) this. I’ve made it to the big leagues, (expletive) it.”
Pham also bristled after the team awarded shortstop Paul DeJong a six-year contract extension with additional club options. Pham refused a similar extension worth two years and $4 million, electing instead to go to arbitration in 2019 and test free agency in 2022.
The Cardinals have moved to remake their bullpen since the July 14 firing of manager Mike Matheny.
Relievers Greg Holland and Tyler Lyons were both designated for assignment last week. Sam Tuivailala was traded to Seattle for a pair of minor-league relievers and Memphis first baseman Luke Voit was shipped to the New York Yankees for two other relievers including lefty Chasen Shreve.
Cards swap outfielders with Cleveland
With their second move of the day, the St. Louis Cardinals acquired minor-league outfielders Conner Capel and Jhon Torres from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Triple-A outfielder Oscar Mercado.
Capel, 21, a left-handed hitting center fielder, was batting .261 with 6 home runs, 44 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 89 games for Class-A Lynchburg this season, earning Carolina League All-Star honors. The 6-1, 185-pound Texan was a fifth-round draft selection by the Indians in 2016. He’s the son of former major-league pitcher Mike Capel.
Torres, 18, has appeared in 27 games for the Arizona Rookie League Indians this season, compiling a .273 batting mark with four home runs and 16 RBIs. The 6-4, 200-pound right-handed hitting Torres is from Colombia.
Mercado, 23, was batting .285 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs with 31 stolen bases for Memphis. He was the Cardinals’ second-round draft selection in 2013.