One of the more surprising trades of the 2018 deadline, the St. Louis Cardinals sent Tommy Pham, moments removed from being in the 2017 NL MVP conversation, to the Tampa Bay Rays, who didn’t appear to be in a position of contention.
Both teams got hot in the second half after poor first halves, the Cards falling just short of the playoffs and the Rays’ 90 wins going for naught in the hellish AL East.
Pham is under control through 2021, so we know why the Rays wanted him. The Cardinals have young outfielders all over the place, like graduates Harrison Bader, Tyler O’Neil, Jose Adolis Garcia and minor leaguers Randy Arozarena and Oscar Mercado.
With the Pham trade, 23-year old Justin Williams was added to the St. Louis mix. Williams, a second round pick in 2013 by the Arizona Diamondbacks, was traded to Tampa Bay in 2014 for Jeremy Hellickson.
He can and has hit in the minors, batting left and throwing right. He hit exactly .351 in both of his first two MiLB seasons. He’s a contact hitter with a good eye at the plate, good tools across the board and the high school shortstop has made strides defensively in the outfield, playing a lot of right field with the strong arm.
Mostly an on-base guy, he’s hit for more power in the past few seasons. He spent all of 2017 at Double-A Montgomery and hit a career-high 14 home runs with a .301 average. Moving up to Triple-A in 2018, he hit 11 home runs across his old and new organizations with a .252 average. He stole four bases and was also caught four times.
In July, 10 days before the trade, Williams made his MLB debut with a pinch-hit, double play groundout. Unceremonious, but a milestone for sure.
His stock regressed a little bit in the past season. 2019 will be a big year for him as he tries to improve on his .217/.276/.391 slash line in 21 games last season for Triple-A Memphis.
The Dominican Genesis Cabrera pitched well at Double-A this season at just 21 years young. It wasn’t his first rodeo, debuting at the level as a 20-year old in 2017. He held his own in his early Double-A entry with a 3.62 ERA in 64.2 innings, but he did surrender 75 hits.
Command can be lost on the young lefty, who turned 22 in October, but he was still solid in his return to Double-A this year. After the trade, he struggled in his new digs but did make his Triple-A debut with two scoreless innings and three strikeouts.
He’s ticketed for a third year at Double-A in 2019, with eyes on Triple-A. He doesn’t have overpowering, bullpen-type stuff, and the Cardinals have a ton of young arms in the organization.
Cabrera deserves to be watched, however, and made 12 relief appearances in the Dominican Winter League. In nine innings, he allowed two runs, struck out 12 to two walks and allowed five hits.
Roel Ramirez was also acquired by the Cardinals in the trade. An eighth-round pick in 2013, he pitched as a starter early in his pro career but has all but moved to the bullpen.
Before the trade, he was great in 40.2 relief innings after quickly doing away with High-A competition. Like Cabrera, he struggled post-deal, moving laterally across different Double-A clubs.
It’s a crowded Cardinals system, but one without a distinguishable star prospect outside of Alex Reyes. We’ll see how much Williams and Cabrera can become, their legacy tied to a surprising 2018 trade.