Phillies Send Hunter Pence to San Francisco
In a move considered a counter to the Los Angeles Dodgers acquiring Shane Victorino, the San Francisco Giants have acquired right fielder Hunter Pence from the Phillies according to Jon Heyman. The Phillies acquired Pence from the Houston Astros at the deadline last year in exchange for prospects Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid, and Domingo Santana. That price was paid for Pence’s presence in a 2011 post-season run, as well as two extra years under arbitration — his third and fourth. The Giants will get Pence for the final two months of this season, and then have him in his final and most expensive year of arbitration, when he will get a raise on his $10,400,000 salary for 2012.
Pence’s brief stint in Philly ends, but he remains in rare territory. He is one of five Phillies outfielders since 1950 to take at least 600 trips to the plate with the club and post an OPS+ of 125 or greater, right behind old friend Jayson Werth.
In return for Pence, the Phillies get outfielder Nate Schierholtz, 20-year-old prospect Tommy Joseph, and another player. Schierholtz is a 28-year-old left-handed hitter who has played part-time in the outfield for the Giants since 2009. He has come on strong in the last two years, posting a .325 wOBA, right around the league average for a corner outfielder. Everyone raves about his defense though, as he has played a strong right field in San Francisco — one of the toughest outfields to traverse — and has one of the best outfield arms in baseball. Schierholtz earned $1.3 million in his first year of arbitration this past off-season and will be arbitration-eligible in the next two season as well. Relative to Hunter Pence, Schierholtz is much cheaper and gives the Phillies much more financial flexibility.
One issue with Schierholtz is that he absolutely cannot hit left-handed pitching. Over the last two years, he has a .232 wOBA against southpaws compared to .355 against right-handers. The Phillies simply must use him in a platoon, likely with John Mayberry, who has posted a .294 wOBA against RHP and .370 against LHP over the last two years.
Joseph was taken in the second round of the 2009 draft. A catcher who can play first base, Joseph ranked #2 in Baseball America’s top-10 prospect list for the Giants, and #4 in Kevin Goldstein’s top-11 prospects list. Goldstein concludes that Joseph has good power potential, but doesn’t have a great game plan at the plate. With Double-A Richmond, Joseph was under-performing with only eight home runs in 335 plate appearances with a .705 OPS, but he is young for the level and has plenty of time to adapt and grow. The Phillies may see him as the heir to the 33-year-old Carlos Ruiz in a couple years, or he could be used in a future trade.
The biggest component of the deal for the Phillies, though, is clearing Pence from the books. He is owed $3.5 million for the final two months (the Phillies are sending money to the Giants to cover some of this) and is expected to earn $14.3 million in arbitration in the off-season. The Phillies have roughly $113 million committed already, so having another $14 million free gives the organization a lot of breathing room.
UPDATE: The third player in the Pence deal is Seth Rosin, a 23-year-old pitcher who has spent the year with Single-A San Jose. Rosin has shown good command and an ability to miss bats, but he has to repeat it at higher levels before any excitement is warranted.