Philadelphia Phillies GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. and former Phillies GM and current Houston Astros GM Ed Wade have been making beautiful music together at the trade deadline for several years now—well, beautiful for the Phillies anyway.
A year ago at this time, the Fightins’ got pitching ace Roy Oswalt and now All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence is coming to the Phillies via the Amaro-Wade hotline. And don’t forget the 2007 trade that brought Brad Lidge to the Phils. You know, the one that led to Lidge's perfect season and the Phillies' 2008 World Series Championship.
While some might question whether Ed Wade is still working for his old team, no one can question that the Phillies acquisition of Hunter Pence makes them better.
But how much better? Will Pence be the answer to the Phillies' on-again, off-again offense? Will he provide the right-handed bat they've needed since Jayson Werth went to Washington? And will Ed Wade hand over anyone else before the Sunday deadline?
Don't know about that last one, but here are five reasons why Pence is the Phils' Final Piece.
GM Ruben Amaro with Domonic Brown
While the Phillies did trade two top minor league prospects in Jonathan Singleton and Jared Cosart, they did NOT have to part with current major leaguers Domonic Brown and Vance Worley.
This comes as a bit of a surprise as Houston had apparently turned down a deal as recently as Thursday that included both Singleton and Cosart saying they wanted more. Many thought that meant there would be no deal if the Phillies were not willing to include either Brown or Worley. But this was not the case.
There are two other players to be named later going from the Phillies to the Astros, but neither are currently at the major league level. While the Phillies are giving up top-rated prospects, they’re just that: prospects. The Phillies are built to win now and Hunter Pence is a player in his prime ready to hit the ground running (and hitting) to help the Phillies do just that.
Hunter Pence is a perfect fit for the Phillies both in the lineup and in the clubhouse. He is aggressive, plays hard and he’s not afraid to get his uniform dirty. He plays the game all out on every play—all qualities that have made Chase Utley such a fan favorite in Philadelphia.
According to former Houston teammate and current Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt, “He is a good, hard-nosed player. Plays hard, gives 100 percent on the field. Don’t have to worry about him putting his work in. He’s going to put his work in.”
And if he does that, Pence won't have to worry about getting a warm welcome from his new teammates and the city of Brotherly Love.
Hunter Pence has good speed and is a good baserunner. Although he only has seven steals this year, he had 19 last year and is likely to have more opportunities to run with his new team.
Pence is also a strong fielder and will definitely help the Phillies defensively in right field. He has a cannon for an arm and leads the National League with nine outfield assists.
With all of Domonic Brown’s potential, his fielding this season has been shaky at best. His recent fielding lapses have even cost the Phillies several runs. Those runs can often translate into lost games down the stretch and in the playoffs.
The more experienced Pence will greatly improve an outfield with the sure-handed and speedy Shane Victorino in center and the reliable veteran Raul Ibanez in left.
Pence, unlike Carlos Beltran, obtained Wednesday by the San Francisco Giants, is not a half-season rental. At age 28, he is still in the prime of his career, brings some needed youth to an aging Phillies lineup and won’t be a free agent until 2013. That means the Phillies will have the option to keep him for at least two more years.
Since this is the final year of Raul Ibanez’s contract, the Phillies outfield next year will most likely be Pence, Victorino and Brown. So, though this is certainly a move aimed at winning now, it will continue to pay dividends into the team’s future. With the added bonus of not having to part with Brown, the team’s outfield seems set for several more years.
Since the start of the season, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has been telling anyone who will listen that he still needed a right-handed bat to break up his lefty-heavy lineup of Utley, Howard, Ibanez and Brown. Well, yesterday, he got what he's been asking for.
Hunter Pence is a right-handed bat and a good one. He is batting .309 this year with 11 home runs and 62 RBI. Although he has a tendency to strike out a bit too much, he has a slugging percentage of .472. He has 123 hits and 26 doubles (both of which will lead the Phillies.)
He can certainly fit in the troublesome No. 5 slot as protection for Ryan Howard and will give Manuel some new flexibility and options with his lineup.
So, is Pence the piece that will bring another championship to Philadelphia? Do the Phillies now have a lineup to match their stellar pitching? Does Ruben Amaro have any other tricks up his red pin-striped sleeve?
Don't know about that last one, but in a week where the Phillies lost two of three to a Giants team that just got Carlos Beltran, things are certainly looking a lot brighter today than they were yesterday.