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Some more Pence-ive thoughts

Jul 30, 2011, 12:00 PM EDT

Hunter Pence AP

So, a few people disagreed with my take on the Hunter Pence trade.  And that’s pretty understandable.  When you’re a contender and you have a chance to get an All-Star caliber player for A-ball prospects, sometimes you just have to pull the trigger.

My opinion is that the Phillies should have been able to get more if they were parting with Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart in the same deal.  Those are two of the top 50 prospects in the game.  I think it’s a better return than what the Padres got for Adrian Gonzalez from the Red Sox.  It’s far, far better than what the Phillies got when they traded Cliff Lee to the Mariners a year and a half ago, and it’s probably more than what they gave up for Roy Halladay.  Even the best players don’t generally net the kind of return Pence just did.

Of course, there is a big difference here, in that Pence is under control for 2 1/3 years, whereas most of these kinds of trades take place with a year or less left before free agency.

The Astros, though, were never able to sign Pence to a long-term deal through his arbitration years as so many other teams have done with their building blocks.  Not only that, but Pence was a super-two arbitration player after 2009, meaning he’s getting four chances to build his salary in arbitration, rather than the usual three.

Had Pence debuted a month later in 2007, he wouldn’t have been arbitration eligible for the first time until this year.  Under those circumstances, I think he would have made something like $5 million, $8 million and $11 million in his three arbitration years.

Instead, Pence made $3.5 million in 2010 and he’s earning $6.9 million this year after winning his arbitration case against the Astros (Houston actually offered him $5.15 million).  Now he’s in a position to earn $10 million next year and $13 million-$14 million in 2012.

And Pence needs to take a step forward if he’s going to be any sort of a bargain at $23 million the next two years.  Yeah, he’s a two-time All-Star, but his OPS has hovered right around .800 in each of his four full seasons.  He strikes out 2 1/2 times for every time he walks, and his career OBP is .339.  He hit exactly 25 homers each year from 2008-10, but he’s going to fall short of that mark this year.

It’s not my intention to slam Pence.  I still think he has the ability to take his game up a notch.  In my opinion, he hasn’t been deserving of either of his All-Star appearances, but that’s not to say he won’t be worthy of future bids.  Phillies fans should enjoy watching him — he’s about as awkward as a good player can be — and if he gets hot at the right time, then he’s certainly capable of making a difference come October.

But there’s a lot of downside here.  The Phillies are up to a $170 million payroll now, and they just shed their two best prospects without getting a superstar in return.  With the farm system drying up, it could be extremely expensive for the Phillies to field a contender in 2013 and beyond.

Plus, the Phillies may well be replacing the wrong corner outfielder with the trade.  Raul Ibanez‘s bat has been pretty good since a horrible April, but he’s still a big liability defensively.  Domonic Brown has also looked pretty shaky with the glove, but he does offer quite a bit more athleticism than Ibanez and his bat only figures to get better.

At least the Phillies did keep Brown out of the trade talks.  Next year’s Brown-Shane Victorino-Pence outfield should rank as the best in the NL East.  And shedding Ibanez’s $11.5 million salary will make Pence’s easier to swallow.

So, the 2011 Phillies are a better team now than they were 24 hours ago.  But I think they were good enough 24 hours ago to win the pennant.  My feeling is that they simply didn’t get better enough to justify the loss of the prospects.  Other opinions may vary.

  1. phuturephillies - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:05 PM

    The farm system isn’t “drying up”. The Phillies have 4 more prospects (Trevor May, Brody Colvin, Jesse Biddle, and Sebastian Valle) who could be Top 100 prospects after this season. And they have another wave in short season ball who could step up as well. Neither Cosart nor Singleton was a key piece in the farm system even 2 years ago. Prospect status is very fluid, and they will certainly be replaced at this time next year with 3 more “names” that other teams covet. This analysis is short-sighted and ill-informed. The Phillies are not the Padres or Marlins. They have more resources than all but one or two teams in the sport.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:07 PM

      Hey, do you run the Phuture Phillies blog? If so, you have really good insight into their prospects and such. I have a question for you, how do you rate Trevor May in comparison to Cosart?

      • phuturephillies - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:10 PM

        I do.

        May hasn’t had the arm/injury problems Cosart has. May’s fastball is more 91-94 hitting 95, whereas Cosart is consistently 93-96 hitting 97. May’s control has been his biggest problem, and it still crops up.

        Cosart has legit #1 potential, but is a more risky proposition because of his delivery and history of arm issues. May is more a #2 or #3, but doesn’t have the same injury risk. Well, all pitching prospects are injury risks, but Cosart much more so.

      • halladaysbiceps - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:15 PM

        phuturephillies,

        I have heard that there were some concerns within the Phillies organization with Cosart’s maturity on and off the field. Do you have any insite into this?

    • b7p19 - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:55 PM

      Isn’t Singleton 19? Of course he wasn’t a key part of the farm system 2 years ago…he was 17.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:56 PM

        I think that is the point. The Phillies do an excellent job of scouting and drafting players.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:57 PM

        Right you are. And the next Singleton is 17 right now, waiting to join be drafted into the Phillies farm system…I believe that was the OP’s point.

      • phuturephillies - Jul 30, 2011 at 1:00 PM

        The point is, the Phillies took him in the 8th round, signed him for $200K to not a whole lot of fanfare, and now he’s the key player in this deal.

        The Phillies total draft bonus outlay for these 3 prospects

        Cosart, 38th round in 2008 – $550K
        Singleton, 8th round in 2009 – $200K
        Zeid, 10th round in 2009 – $10K

        $760K in bonus money, none of the players taken before the 8th round.

        The Phillies do a tremendous job scouting and replenishing every year.

    • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:58 PM

      If anybody is interested in Phillies prospects, I highly suggest you read this guys blog.

    • chew1985 - Jul 30, 2011 at 1:14 PM

      3-4 years from now…Lee, Hamels, Worley, Kendrick and a baby ace or two…Madson maybe, Bastardo, Stutes, Chooch/Valle, Howard, Utley, Martinez at short or third, slapping the ball around the infield for .270/.280 average and Ozzie Smith like fielding, Brown in left and between Victorino and Pence, at least one still here, probably both. NOT an unrealistic or salary cap-busting scenario.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 30, 2011 at 1:21 PM

        Doc is signed through 2014(team option) and I have a hard time thinking they wouldn’t extend him another 3 years. He is like a fine wine…he is getting better with age. No reason to think he won’t be pitching until he is 40. I believe in 2016, you will still see Doc/Lee at the head of the rotation and still see Ryan Howard knocking in 120 runs…if his “luck” holds up…LOL.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 30, 2011 at 1:21 PM

        I go to sleep with the nightmare of Kyle Kendrick being a Philly in 3-4 years. He seems like a decent guy and I feel bad that Dubee bullies him, but he isn’t good. Even when he gets results, he isn’t good. He always pitches the same…on the edge of disaster.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Jul 30, 2011 at 1:28 PM

        dr, my mind didn’t even comprehend the notion that Kendrick will still be on this team in 3-4 years. He never ever has a spot on the team…he’s usually the 5th pitcher then the long man…then the spot starter…then back into the pen. They have tried over and over to give him a shot, and he has always failed at it. If he hasn’t figured it out by now, time to cut bait. On another team, maybe he does better, but I don’t see him as anything more than a #5 starter at best.

      • seeingwhatsticks - Jul 30, 2011 at 3:36 PM

        Lee- $25 million
        Halladay- $20 million
        Howard- $25 million

        Utley is a FA in 2 years, Victorino after next year. Based on what Howard’s making it would stand to reason Utley will make at least $20 million (or not be retained) and Victorino at least $10 million (and I think that’s conservative). That means in 3 years the Phillies would be spending $100 million on 5 players. Let’s say they also retain Hamels, after this year. That’s probably going to be another $15 million minimum, which means it’s now $115 million for 6 players. That doesn’t really seem like a realistically cap friendly situation. My guess is at least 2 out of the Utley, Victorino, Hamels trio is gone at the end of their contracts.

    • craigbhill - Jul 30, 2011 at 4:23 PM

      Say, phutures, what can you relate regarding the funding of the Phils? Do their resources come from attendance + stadium sales + tv & radio, or are they seriously in debt? Does the ownership group consist of at least one billionaire who can just shell out the cash on whim? Is the $170 mill payroll pinching, or is there more $$ coming down the pipeline to replenish the offense? Or will that spigot essentially be turned off, and the farm system be relied upon?

      I appreciate your expertise on your very great team.

      Tho it seems to me, and i am no Giants fan, that the balance of power has tilited West. Look at recent evolution: The Phils win the pennant, and the World Series. Then the pennant but not the World Series. Then the division but not the pennant. Their hitting is not appreciably better. Pence will help, but the move for him was out of a desperation more needed be done before the trade deadline and coincidentally before the Phils go to Frisco next week. I’m curious as to your take. Are you a homer and blindly believe when there is diminishing reason to, or a realist who knows that if you get past Frisco, which seems to do everything right a champion needs to win at least the pennant, you’ll be pretty fortunate.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 30, 2011 at 4:32 PM

        Interestingly enough, he talks about some of this stuff. Here is a link:
        http://mostlyawasteoftime.com/2011/07/30/a-plea-to-phillies-fans-start-acting-like-you-belong/

      • misterzoomer - Jul 30, 2011 at 5:50 PM

        The Phillies have the best record in the league, the Braves aren’t far behind and the balance of power has shifted West?

      • craigbhill - Jul 30, 2011 at 8:14 PM

        Um, misterzoomman?? Until Atlanta wins something, they don’t count. The power i’m talking about is the results in October, capiche?? The Giants just took 2 of 3 from your boys and looked better than Philly did, which lost their first series since forever. And don’t look now, but Frisco beat Philly last October. Hate to break the news. So that’s whatcha kinda call the power in the NL tilting West, yeah. And btw, i was rooting for the Phils against them. So you can stop sounding defensively offensive.

        This has to be explained? Apparently.

      • misterzoomer - Jul 30, 2011 at 9:51 PM

        What has to be explained to you is that a short series is not an ample sample from which to draw a conclusion. Can you say anything without sounding condescending?

      • cleverbob - Jul 31, 2011 at 7:49 AM

        They didn’t face Halladay or Lee, and Lincecum went up against Kendrick, so this wasn’t exactly a realistic preview of the playoffs. Apparently, this had to be explained.

      • craigbhill - Jul 31, 2011 at 10:22 AM

        Well, i didn’t really want to communicate with a guy so defensive about his team he couldn’t take even the simplest factual observations of how the team has NOT performed in October the last 2 years as indication it is not on the upswing, but on the downswing, without childishly attacking the statician of that most important reality, play in October. Like when Atlanta won all those divisions in a row but rolled up and died in October, they were not in the conversation any more regarding what MATTERED. You come off like you wear red Philly jammies to bed, so when anyone who reminds you of the last 2 Octobers must be an enemy! who must be attacked! That kind of horse shit is worthless in actual whatchacall “discussion”, which is where i came from and how i started.

        My questions were directed to the phutures guy, not you.

        Have another cheesesteak and fight with someone else, big boy. Your team showed a lack of life against Frisco last week, the team that shouldn’t have beaten them (you) last year, and you can’t take take that reality, let alone discuss it without anger.

      • cleverbob - Jul 31, 2011 at 10:53 AM

        Don’t know if you’re trying to come at me or misterzoomer, but save that nonsense far PFT.

      • craigbhill - Jul 31, 2011 at 11:36 AM

        You guys are TYPICAL of the irrational fan. Don’t worry, i’m outtahere, enjoy yourselves, i have no idea what PFT is, and considering you recommended it, i’m sure it’s more of this back and forth garbage that never goes anywhere. I wanted facts, not emotion and excuses for your team, which you unable to bring to the table.

      • cleverbob - Jul 31, 2011 at 12:42 PM

        Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  2. drmonkeyarmy - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:06 PM

    Fair enough and much less confrontational. I really think the divide comes in how one rates Cosart. Some are super high on the kid, others not so much.

  3. halladaysbiceps - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:10 PM

    Here’s how I look at it. I will take it from a market perspective. Every year is different. The reason that the Phillies had to give up the wealth of prospects they did was because several teams in the NL had the same grocery list: A good righthanded bat. Houston knew this and therefore played each team off of the other to get what they wanted. If this was another year and most contenders were looking for starting pitching, a righthanded bat could have been had a cheaper cost. But, this wasn’t the year for that.

    The Phillies had to overpay to get him. We will look back on it a few years from now and determine if it was worth it.

  4. derpdederpdederp - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:20 PM

    he’s been in a pretty bad slump since the break, I can see him being a huge bust once he moves to a big market but I guess we’ll have to wait and see

  5. BG-BG-BG-BG! - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:29 PM

    Pence has been playing for a last place losing team for a few years now. Negativity breeds negativity but even with that said he has played pretty darn good. I truly believe that putting him on a winning team with sellout crowds can only help his numbers. Philly fans will love this guy because he hustles and gives 110%.

  6. mikedi33 - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    Bottom line, phillies already had too much invested in this season they had to overpay to get a rh bat and one can argue in the long run the Nationals still overpaid way more for Werth. The Phils have Lee and Pence and are a much better team than if they had just paid Werth. Plus, they are printing money at citzens bank Park so in the future they will still have money to acquire a free agent if the farm does have a seasonal drought.

  7. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    Here’s what’s NUTS!!! I was using my iPhone earlier when I was quoting Pence’s stats….321 BA and 139 OPS+. Now I check the computer and he is only(only?) hitting .308 with a 132 OPS+. The damn mobile baseball-ref website is 11 games behind!!! LOL.

    So in the last 11 games, Pence has really struggled. Probably because of all the talk about a trade. He’s a young guy at 28 and he is controlled for another 2 years. Yeah, he isn’t the best RF in baseball and the Phillies gave up more than the Red Sox gave up for Gonzalez. But A-Gone was going to be signing a zillion dollar extension and Pence won’t be.

    If he hits .310 and has an OPS+ of 135 or more, he will be well worth the $12.5 million he will average the next 2 years. And he is better than Domonic Brown in RF right now, and that is all that matter to the Phillies who are trying to win the 2011 World Series. Singleton was never going to work here and Cosart is not even as well liked as May in some circles. Keith Law is not the final word on all prospects, as much as he and some people like to think he is.

    If Pence ends the year at .310 and the Phillies win the 2011 World Series, the names Singleton and Cosart will be a distant memory.

  8. misterzoomer - Jul 30, 2011 at 12:54 PM

    Did you write a similar post when Beltran was traded? Wheeler is probably a better prospect than Cossart at this point and the Giants only have Beltran for 1/3 of the season with no draft pick compensation. Like or not, the Giants set the market and the Phillies went shopping. I know the Phils are high on Singleton but Pence will be in Philly for another two years after this.

    • Ari Collins - Jul 30, 2011 at 2:24 PM

      But Beltran is a much, much better player. And the Giants only gave up one top prospect instead of two.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 30, 2011 at 2:28 PM

        And is a free agent at the end of the season.

      • misterzoomer - Jul 30, 2011 at 2:35 PM

        and he is a free agent with no draft pick compensation while Pence has two arb years and the possibility of draft pick compensation. I’m not a huge fan of the trade because I think Pence will coat more than he is worth the next two years but it isn’t the dramatic overpay others have made it out to be. Plus, Beltran is only much, much better when he chooses to be.

      • Ari Collins - Jul 30, 2011 at 2:46 PM

        They won’t have free agent compensation as we know it in two years. And Pence won’t be paid much less than market value the next two years.

        So Beltran decided not to be good his first year, but great the rest of his Mets years until he was injured?

        If Beltran could play at his best level every year of his career, he’d be a hall of famer.

        And considering his record postseasons, the Giants will be very glad of his apparent ability to turn it on whenever he wants.

  9. BG-BG-BG-BG! - Jul 30, 2011 at 1:16 PM

    Well, it will be nice to have a .300 hitter in the lineup.

  10. russ99a - Jul 30, 2011 at 2:10 PM

    Funny, Phils fans think that they gave up too much, and Astros fans think that Wade sold short and could have gotten more, especially if the rumors earlier were true.

    • cleverbob - Jul 30, 2011 at 3:16 PM

      Then it was the perfect compromise

  11. hank10 - Jul 30, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    What has Kyle Drabek, Travis d’Arnaud and Michael Taylor done fro the Jays as part of the Halladay deal? What has Marson, Carrasco, Knapp and Donald done for the Indians in the Lee trade? Those guys were considered top talent in the Phils’ system and they’re still in AAA. When a contender wants to win NOW, they do what they have to do.

    All prospects are suspects until they prove otherwise.

    • Ari Collins - Jul 30, 2011 at 2:27 PM

      Carrasco has done an awful lot for the Indians. The rest of those guys haven’t had a chance to make an impact yet, but most of them are very likely about to.

      And Lee himself was a prospect, traded along with Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore for Bartolo Colon.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Jul 30, 2011 at 2:29 PM

        He is 8-9 with a 4.67 ERA.

      • Ari Collins - Jul 30, 2011 at 2:54 PM

        He’s had good peripherals. He, D’Arnaud, and Drabek will be very good players.

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