Tommy Pham had his contract for 2018 renewed by the Cardinals on Monday, the same day the team signed Paul DeJong to a new six-yyear deal. (Scott Rovak/USA Today Sports)

By Rob Rains

JUPITER, Fla. On a concrete patio outside the Cardinals’ clubhouse, everyone was smiling on Monday when the team announced a contract extension for shortstop Paul DeJong which could keep him with the team for the next eight years.

DeJong’s parents and grandparents were there, and some of his teammates and coaches sat or stood in the back watching the press conference.

Only a couple of hours later, a sullen Tommy Pham stood by himself inside the team’s clubhouse and expressed his displeasure at having to sign a contract renewal which will pay him only slightly more than the league’s minimum salary for this season.

Pham understands the business of baseball sometimes can be harsh, and this was just another example of that.

Because he fell a few days short of not being eligible for arbitration until after next season – after spending the first month of 2017 in Triple A – Pham basically had no leverage when it came to trying to negotiate a new contract.

With less than a year of service time in the majors, DeJong really had no leverage either – except for his age, 24, and his and the team’s willingness to agree on a team-friendly six-year contract worth $26 million, a deal that also includes two club option years.

DeJong and Pham were arguably the Cardinals’ two best position players in 2017, but their new contracts are a reflection of where they are in their careers.

The Cardinals are betting on DeJong’s future at a position where turnover has been the norm in recent years. When DeJong takes the field at shortstop on opening day, he will be the 11th different starter there for the team in the last 12 seasons. Since 2007, the only player to start for the Cardinals twice at shortstop on opening day was Jhonny Peralta in 2014 and 2015.

Pham, who will celebrate his 30th birthday on Thursday, knows his age is the biggest difference between the two players – because there wasn’t much to separate the performance of the two on the field last year. While DeJong hit 25 homers, Pham hit 23. DeJong drove in 65 runs, Pham 73. Pham hit .306 while DeJong posted a .285 average. Pham also stole 25 bases, becoming one of only a few players in team history to record a 20-20 season.

Because of his past injuries, however, and his age, the Cardinals were reluctant to make him a long-term commitment such as the one awarded to DeJong.

While Pham understands that, it doesn’t mean he has to like it. While the Cardinals bet on DeJong, Pham is betting on himself – already with an eye toward next winter, when he will be eligible for salary arbitration.

“The numbers didn’t add up to me or my agency or the union,” Pham said. “It didn’t make sense. It’s business, and I didn’t like it. It didn’t seem right. I wouldn’t sell myself short like that, so I took the renewal. It’s what it is.”

Pham said there was some discussions about a possible two-year contract, but he didn’t like the team’s offer for that deal either.

“It just wasn’t strong enough for me, if you look at what I did last year, I didn’t think there a greater amount of appreciation so I took the renewal,” he said.

The Cardinals, according to John Mozeliak, the president of baseball operations, had not renewed the contract of a player since they did it with both Anthony Reyes and Adam Wainwright in 2008.

“It’s always business to me,” Pham said. “When I show up I’m about business. I don’t show up to have fun. I can do that away from the field. I go clubbing away from the field. When I show up here this is all business. This is my livlihood, it’s how I make money. It’s always been about business. Nothing’s changing.”

Pham’s argument in the negotiations was that the time that he spent in Memphis kept him from reaching arbitration status, and the combination of his performance there should be included with his performance in the major leagues.

“The power is in their hands,” he said. “They can offer me as much as they are willing to offer. I was down for a long time last year (in Memphis) playing well. You can say what you want about me, but this is all about business.

“This is an industry based off production. Production always said I belonged in the big leagues. The numbers back it up.”

Pham knows if he can repeat his success from last season, the numbers will add up in his favor next winter.

“That’s the plan,” he said. “I know what numbers I need to put up to reach whatever I’m willing to reach. I’m betting on myself. I’m from Vegas. I’m a betting individual.”

Pham made it a point to say he was happy for DeJong ans his new contract, even if t is only human nature for him to be a little jealous.

“Good for Paul, he played well,” Pham said.

Pham knows he played well too – even if he doesn’t have the contract he wanted to show for it.

Follow Rob Rains on Twitter @RobRains 

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