The 2011 Major League Baseball Trade Deadline has come and gone. On July 31 when the clock struck 4, it was bluetooths off and blackberries down for exhausted GM’s across the league. It was an active trade deadline period with lots of players changing uniforms. But now that the texting has cleared and we've had a couple of days to clear our heads, how did GM Ruben Amaro and the Phillies really fare?
In order to give Ruben an accurate grade it’s critical to look at more than just who is now wearing Phillies red. So get out your scorecards and play along as we take a look at who they got, who they gave up, what they didn’t get and how it all stacks up with the moves made by baseball’s other top teams.
Are you with me? I told you to get out your scorecards. Here we go.
The Phillies acquired OF Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros for four minor league prospects (for more on them, see next slide.) Pence was one of the bigger names available in this year’s trade deadline sweepstakes and according to Ruben Amaro he had always been the Phillies top choice.
For a while it looked like Houston wouldn’t part with their All-Star right fielder but the Ed Wade-Ruben Amaro duo worked its magic once again, at least for the Phillies. Pence is the third major player to come form Houston to the Phillies.
First there was Brad Lidge in 2007, at last year’s trade deadline the Phils got Roy Oswalt and now Pence. Houston’s GM Ed Wade is a former Phillies GM and knows Ruben Amaro very well from their many years working together. Coincidence? I’m just saying.
Pence is a right-handed hitting right fielder who came to the Phillies batting .309 (which leads the Phillies.) He has 11 home runs and 62 RBI, 123 (now 128) hits with 26 (now 29) doubles both of which lead his new team.
In addition Pence is a strong defensive right fielder leading the National League with nine outfield assists. Defense is one of Phillies’ rookie Domonic Brown’s, shall we say, “developing skills” and one reason Brown is in Lehigh while Pence is in right field.
Finally, Pence is a perfect addition to the Phillies locker room. He eats, lives and breathes baseball. He plays hard, has fun and likes to get his uniform dirty. He is definitely from the Chase Utley school of baseball so it is not surprising that Chase has already taken a liking to his new teammate.
In his first four games with the Phillies Pence has 5 hits including 3 doubles, 3 runs scored and 2 RBI. He's batting .294 in that stretch and .308 overall.
The Phillies are 4-0 with Hunter Pence in the line-up.
So what’s the grade? This one’s easy. Ruben, go to the head of the class.
It’s actually not what the Phillies gave up to get Hunter Pence that’s surprising, but what, or who, they didn’t. The Phillies traded four prospects to the Astros including outfielder John Singleton, pitcher Jared Cosart, pitcher Josh Zeid and a player to be named later. The surprise was that they did not have to part with either Domonic Brown or Vance Worley. (But more on that later.)
Both John Singleton and Jared Cosart are considered top prospects. Singleton was originally a first baseman but with a roadblock by the name of Ryan Howard in his way he made the switch to left field after the 2010 post season.
Cosart is a right-handed power pitcher in the making. While both prospects are highly-ranked and certainly promising, they are also at least several years away from the major leagues.
Judging by the impressive talent and equally impressive payroll of this current Phillies squad, the team that Ruben built is in it to win it now. Even if it means sacrificing some talent of the future.
Got a proven player, gave up as yet unproven prospects. Another good grade for Ruben here.
The prevailing wisdom is that the Phillies could probably win their division without making any deals but with a $170 million payroll, Amaro and the Phillies have more in mind than just the division. And to improve their chances for success in the Post Season (should they get there) they did have a couple of needs to fill.
Arguably their most critical need. a right-handed bat to break up their lefty heavy line-up, was filled by the acquisition of Hunter Pence. Another need, however, was getting an experienced bullpen arm.
The Phillies bullpen has been decimated by injuries this year. Jose Contreras has yet to return and though Brad Lidge is finally back, his rash of recent arm injuries continues to cause concern.
Although the young arms have filled in admirably, most notably Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes, neither have experience pitching in the pressure-filled post season. That’s why the Phillies, and many other teams, were very interested in Padres late inning set-up man Mike Adams.
Although the Padres preferred to deal Heath Bell, the Texas Rangers still managed to snag Adams right before the deadline.
Ruben was in the “hunt” but not able to convert this time.
This brings us back to Domonic Brown and Vance Worley. Both Brown and Worley were at the major league level at the time of the trade (Brown was since sent down to make room for Pence) and most baseball insiders thought Houston would demand at least one of them to give up Pence.
For an all-star player of Pence’s caliber, Houston would certainly want at least one player who had been tested at the major league level. In fact, Wade had already rejected a deal that included Cosart and Singleton.
But whatever Amaro added to sweeten the deal--one more prospect, a player to be named later, World Series tickets, whatever it was, it did the trick and Pence was on his way to Philadelphia.
Oh yeah, did I mention that Wade is also ponying up $2 million of the approximately $2.2 million dollars left in Pence’s salary for 2011?
Seems like Ruben got more than he gave. That’s a win for him.
Many of the Phillies competitors got better as well.
The second place Braves, currently in the lead for the Wild Card, got outfielder Michael Bourn also from the Astros. He definitely makes them better particularly with his speed and his defense. He has 39 stolen bases so far this year and will be a perfect lead-off hitter for the Braves.
Bourn has only played 2 games with his new team but he is off to a good start with 3 hits so far.
The Giants, currently leading the NL west, got better as well. Their big addition was the Mets Carlos Beltran who brings some much needed power to their weak-hitting line-up. They also added infield depth with Jeff Keppinger and Orlando Cabrera.
Although it is an admittedly small sample, Carlos Beltran has not hit the ground running with his new team. In 6 games he has 5 hits and 1 RBI. he's batting .200 and the Giants have lost 5 of 6 since he joined the team.
And what about perennial post season favorites, the Yankees and the Red Sox? The Yankees surprisingly did nothing before the trade deadline. The Red Sox did a little better by getting pitcher Erik Bedard but he has been hampered by injuries this year and been inconsistent on the mound.
This is probably the toughest one to call. The Phillies, Giants and Braves all improved. The Phillies get a slight edge over the Giants since they will control Pence’s contract longer. Pence gets an edge over Bourn although some would make a case for the reverse.
So the grade for Ruben?
That brings the overall grade for the Phillies 2011 trade deadline performance to about an A-. (Sorry, math is not my strong point.)
But let’s face it. A good grade at the trade deadline won’t mean a thing if the Phillies are eliminated again by the Giants or can’t find their offense when it counts.