2011 MLB Trade Deadline: 10 Things to Know About the Hunter Pence Trade

Asher ChanceySenior Analyst IJuly 30, 2011

2011 MLB Trade Deadline: 10 Things to Know About the Hunter Pence Trade

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    Ed Wade continues to build a winner in Philadelphia.  

    The Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies completed a trade late Friday night that sends All-Star right fielder Hunter Pence to the Phils in exchange for a collection of minor-leaguers.  For the Phillies, Pence represents the right-handed bat that many think is the final piece of the championship puzzle.

    Ed Wade, of course, is the General Manager of the Houston Astros but also happens to be the former General Manager of the Phillies, and this marks the third time in five years that Wade has sent one of his stars to the Phils for prospects.

    This deal promises to make the Phillies significantly better while ensuring that the Astros will be rebuilding for another year. 

    And the Phillies are grateful.  If they win the World Series in 2011, Wade will need to be fitted for a ring.

    Let's have a look at the deal and at the Phillies' new outfielder.

The Deal: What Are the Phillies Giving Up

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    The Phillies are getting Hunter Pence for . . . Not much at all.

    The Astros get four prospects in the deal: Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid, plus a player to be named.

    Cosart is a 6'3" 21 year-old right-hander currently in Clearwater, where he is having a perfectly decent but not overwhelming season.  A 2011 Futures Games participant, he is at least three years away.

    Singleton is a 6'2" left-handed outfielder who, though just 19, is already at High-A ball and projects to be a power-speed threat with the ability to get on base.  Like Cosart, though, Singleton is at least three years away.

    The third piece of the puzzle is Josh Zeid.  Basically, anyone who says Zeid was on their radar is lying.

    Zeid is a big 6'5" right-handed pitcher who, after two seasons of sub-3.00 ERA at Low-A and High-A in 2009 and 2010 is currently sporting a 5.65 ERA at Double-A Reading.  He is a part-time starter/part-time closer whose projection, at this point, is anyone's guess.

    The Phils keep both Domonic Brown and Vance Worley, which is a coup.

Are the Astros the Phillies New Triple-A Affiliate?

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    For the record, here is a list of players who have changed hands between the Phillies and Astros since the end of the 2007 season, including the three trades and various other signings:

    Players Going From the Phillies to the Astros:

    Mike Constanzo, Michael Bourn, Geoff Geary, Chris Coste, Sergio Escalona, Pedro Feliz, Nelson Figueroa, Brett Myers, J.A. Happ, Anthony Gose, Jonathan Villar, Josh Zeid, Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart and a player to be named later.

    Players Going From the Astros to the Phillies:

    Brad Lidge, Eric Bruntlett, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence

The Jayson Werth-for-Hunter Pence Trade

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    Years from now, we will remember this as the Jayson Werth for Hunter Pence trade.

    Pence benefits very much from the comparison.

    Pence is 6'4", 220 pounds and is 28 years old.  Werth is 6'5", 220 pounds, and is 32 years old.  Just as Pence joins the Phillies at the age of 28, Werth was 28 years old in his first season with the Phillies in 2007.

    However, Pence has had far more success by now than Werth had prior to joining the Phillies.  Pence is a career .290 hitter who just hit his 100th home run this season and has hit 25 home runs each of the last three years.  

    At a similar point in his career, Werth had yet to play a full season and had just 25 career home runs over the course of four partial seasons.

    In essence, while the Washington Nationals will be paying Werth $126 million over the next seven years for the success he had in Philadelphia (a deal they are already regretting), the Phillies have gone back to where they started when they signed Werth, bringing in a young-and-talented player who has two arbitration-eligible seasons remaining before he becomes a free agent in 2014.

    Great quasi-trade.

The Lineup: Where Does Pence Fit In?

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    Question: How long will it take Hunter Pence to make Ryan Howard a better hitter?

    Answer: As soon as Pence's name is written down on the lineup card.

    Ryan Howard is suffering through the worst season of his career (not bad for a guy leading the National League in RBI).  It is also no secret that in 2011, Howard, as the clean-up hitter, has had the worst fifth-spot support of his career.

    In 2011, Ben Francisco, Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino have carried most of the load in the fifth spot, and the results have been appalling: through 110 games, the Phillies' fifth-spot hitter has batted just .228 with 10 home runs and 59 RBI.  

    Worse yet, the Phillies' five-hole hitters have combined for a .309 on-base percentage and a .683 OPS.

    Compare those numbers to last season, when Jayson Werth and company combined to hit .307 with 32 home runs and 106 RBI in the five-hole, with a .391 on-base percentage and a .944 OPS.

    A case could be made that the lack of a fifth-spot hitter is the sole difference between the high-powered Phillies offenses of recent years and the sluggish Phillies offense of 2011.

    In that sense, Hunter Pence represents a major upgrade, and simply by stepping into the lineup makes this team better.

What Does This Mean for Domonic Brown?

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    Dom Brown, we'll see you in 2012.

    Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated has reported that Domonic Brown is headed back to Triple-A Lehigh Valley in wake of Pence deal.  This follows comments from Charlie Manuel this week that Brown needs more Triple-A seasoning.

    It is no knock on Brown that he is not quite ready for prime time.  He had a very rough landing after being called up to the Phils in 2010, and then a disastrous off-season before getting injured and missing most of Spring Training and the beginning of the year.  

    For Brown, literally nothing has gone right over the last 12 months, and getting a chance to reset at Triple-A instead of having to press to make contributions while still learning the game in the majors will not help him at this point in his career.

    And by the way, for those of you tempted to consider Brown a bust, think again.  After a terrible 2010, Brown has shown doubles power and an ability to get on-base without hitting the ball at the major league level in 2011.  

    And, in July, Brown has been terrific, hitting .303 with a .410 on-base percentage and bringing his walks numbers way up.

    Next season, after finishing out the year in Triple-A and with Raul Ibanez gone, Brown should be ready to take over left-field full time and combine with Pence and Shane Victorino to form one of the most dynamic outfields in baseball.

Hunter Pence: The Bad News

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    Hunter Pence is a player who exploded onto the scene for the Astros in 2007.

    At the age of 24, in his first-ever major league action, Pence hit .322 with an .899 OPS and 30 doubles, nine triples and 17 home runs in just 108 games.  This is a guy who truly looked to be a five tool player, with doubles power, home run power, speed, the ability to hit for high average, and solid looking defense.

    He has never recaptured that magic.

    Pence has never hit more than five triples since that first season.  After hitting 30 doubles in just 108 games, Pence has topped 30 doubles just once since then.  

    With 17 home runs in his first time through the majors, he looked like a guy who projected to hit 35-40 home runs a year, but he has never hit more than 25.  And, while he can still steal a base, his stolen-base percentage is comparatively terrible.

    At this point, Pence represents unfulfilled promise in a lot of ways.

Reasons for Pence's Failure to Live Up to the Hype

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    At the same time, though, Pence has not had a whole lot to play for since that 2007 season.

    As a rookie, Pence played on a decent Astros team.  Craig Biggio was still in town, Lance Berkman was still a star, Carlos Lee was a positive force in the lineup, and Luke Scott still looked like a guy with a promising future.

    It really has been downhill ever since.  In 2008, the Astros had a winning record but were not in contention in the NL Central, and then in 2009 the Astros began a steady descent into the bottom tier of the National League.

    We noted earlier that Ryan Howard's struggles in 2011 are likely related to the complete ineffectiveness of the hitters protecting him from the fifth spot in the order.  

    Well, Hunter Pence has spent the last few seasons surrounded by a quickly-aging Carlos Lee, an oft-injured Lance Berkman, and a deceptively ineffective Miguel Tejada.

    In 2011, Pence has actually had a semi-decent, which is to say somewhat above-average, lineup around him, and he is enjoying his best season since 2007.  Batting fifth for the Phillies, Pence should blossom.

Minute Maid Park: Is Hunter Pence a Hometown Hero?

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    Hunter Pence has traditionally been a better hitter at home than on the road, and 2011 is no exception.

    This season, Pence is hitting .330 at home and just .286 on the road.  There is a split of over .100 points between Pence's home OPS (.882) and his road OPS (.768), and 17 of his 26 doubles have come at home.

    Nevertheless, there are reasons to be reassured that Pence will be fine for the Phillies.

    For one thing, the Astros as a team are terrible on the road, hitting just .256 as a team with a .304 on-base percentage and a .671 OPS.  

    The Astros hitting numbers are down nearly across the board on the road when compared to at home, which means that in road games, Hunter Pence is hitting in a terrible lineup, which naturally has its impact upon his own performance.

    Of course, the Phillies are not exactly road-warriors themselves, but the dropoff between the Phillies home hitting and road hitting is not nearly as dramatic as the Astros'.

Citizens Bank Park: How Does Pence Hit in Philly?

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    In 13 career games at Citizens Bank Park, Hunter Pence has hit .300 with two doubles, two home runs and six RBI.  Not a very good sample size, of course, but Pence has had some success here.

    Now, imagine how he'll do with sold-out Phillies crowds rooting for him, instead of against him, and with an adequate lineup around him.

    Expect good things.

Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro: Are the Phillies Cheating?

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    At the end of the day, the Hunter Pence dead is a such a good deal for the Phillies one must almost suspect the dealings between Ed Wade and Ruben Amaro Jr.

    In Hunter Pence, the Phillies are getting an underrated rightfielder who is safe through 2013 and who is entering the prime of his career.

    And in return, the Astros are getting a couple of High-A prospects that no one thinks the world of and a Double-A reliever.  The fact that the Phillies still have Domonic Brown and Vance Worley after this deal is really surprising.

    Does this really all add up?

Final Prognosis: Pence to the Phillies Is Win-Win

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    There is an undercurrent message here that could be easy to miss, by the way.

    Great teams come along once in a lifetime (and if you are the Chicago Cubs, not even that often), and this seems to be something that is not lost on the Philadelphia Phillies ownership.  

    For the third year in a row, the Phillies have pulled off a trade deadline blockbuster deal which also represents the sixth major deal since the end of the 2007 season, including:

    The Brad Lidge Trade

    The Cliff Lee Trade

    The Roy Halladay Trade

    The Roy Oswalt Trade

    The Cliff Lee Signing

    The Hunter Pence Trade

    The Pence trade really is win-win for both player and team.  Unlike Carlos Beltran, Pence is a player worth having both this year and beyond, and his presence in the order alone makes the Phillies a better hitting club.

    At the end of the day, we have no idea how long this run the Phillies are on is going to last, and there is no telling how many more blockbuster deals Ruben Amaro can pull off (eventually the Astros will run out of players, right?)

    But for now, enjoy it while it lasts, Phillies fans. The Phillies have the best team in baseball, and it just got a whole lot better.