Padres Rumors: Polarizing FA could bump Jackson Merrill off Opening Day roster

Would Padres fans welcome this former outfielder back to San Diego?

Arizona Diamondbacks designated hitter Tommy Pham (28) celebrates
Arizona Diamondbacks designated hitter Tommy Pham (28) celebrates / Joe Rondone/The Republic / USA TODAY

The San Diego Padres are still in the market for outfield help. Yes, Jackson Merrill has looked quite good in left field this spring, but as a career shortstop who's just 20 years old, the Padres may want to have some insurance in the outfield.

The Friars have already brought back former outfielder Jurickson Profar, and the veteran is expected to be competing for a starting spot alongside Merrill this spring. But Dennis Lin of The Athletic (subscription required) is reporting that league sources are continuing to link Tommy Pham to the Padres.

Pham spent two seasons in San Diego, but after a horrific encounter outside a San Diego nightclub in 2020 resulted in a lot of jeering from fans, both home and away, the outfielder's relationship with the Friars faithful became a bit contentious.

Padres Rumors: Polarizing free agent could bump Jackson Merrill off Opening Day roster

Adding Pham to the Padres roster would solve the outfield conundrum. While not wildly viewed as an elite defender, Pham can hold his own. For his career, Pham is worth 9 defensive runs saved (DRS) in left field according to FanGraphs. But while splitting time with four different franchises the past two seasons, the veteran is viewed as slightly above-average fielder (1 DRS).

Pham spent the 2022 season with both the Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox. Last season, Pham signed a one-year deal with the New York Mets but was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the deadline and was seen a positive influence on the D-backs young roster.

Signing Pham, however, would likely result in Merrill beginning the 2024 season at Triple-A. Though his Cactus League results have been positive thus far, Merrill barely got his feet wet in Double-A last season, and has just five professional games in the outfield.

With the switch-hitting Profar, Padres manager Mike Shildt could decide to form a loose platoon with him and Pham in left field. There is the possibility, if the Padres sign Pham, that Merrill could begin to see some time in center field in an effort to break camp with the big league club.

It's questionable, however, if the former first-round pick has the ability to play the position. Currently, non-roster invitee Oscar Mercado and Jose Azocar are battling it out for the right to start in the middle of the San Diego outfield.

Keep an eye on the free agent market in the coming days. With less than a month before the Friars' 2024 season begins, if president of baseball operations A.J. Preller wants to add another outfielder, he needs to so quickly. Pham isn't the only player still on the market. Adam Duvall and Michael A. Taylor are still unsigned.