San Francisco Giants get: OF Hunter Pence
Philadelphia Phillies get: OF Nate Schierholtz, RP Seth Rosin, C/1B Tommy Joseph
GM Ruben Amaro and the Phillies started the second act of their rebuilding process by trading outfielder Hunter Pence to the offense-starved San Francisco Giants, just minutes after shipping fellow OF Shane Victorino to the Los AngelesDodgers. Amaro has single-handedly fortified the NL West by addressing the needs of the two contenders for the division crown.
In Pence, SF oddly enough gets a bat and glove very similar to former Giants outfielder and financial millstone Aaron Rowand. The now former Phillie has proven to be an annual 25 homer threat, having hit an anomalous 25 every season between 2008 and 2010, with 22 in 2011 and 17 this year. He’s a near lock for a performance of around a .280 batting average, 90 runs, 25 homers of course and 90 RBI. Pence has shown some plus speed, but his stolen base numbers have tapered off as he’s gotten closer to 30. Defensively, he’ll fit in very well alongside Melky Cabrera in left and Angel Pagan in center. The Giants could very well have the most steady defensive outfield unit in the NL West, along with their rivals in Southern California.
His effect on the Giants lineup should be significant, but not exactly because he’s that much of an offensive difference-maker. Overall, Pence is a very, very good complimentary player, but not the type of offensive force that can transform a lineup around him, like how both Hanley Ramirez is doing now on the Dodgers, or Manny Ramirez did four seasons ago. He’ll hit in the middle of the lineup for the Giants, surrounded by Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera. Like Sandoval and Cabrera, Pence is merely a borderline or fringe All-Star who is there to simply prop up slugging catcher Posey, rather than form a deadly middle of the order threat, like the Dodgers’ Kemp/Ethier/Ramirez trio, or the killer Hamilton/Beltre/Cruz mashing unit in Texas. Hunter will definitely help an 11th ranked NL offense in SF, both in that he’s a well-above average player, and by who he’s replacing.
As seemingly always with the Giants since Barry Bonds left town over five years ago, GM Brian Sabean has allocated most of his resources to pitching, rather than creating a competent offense. Of course, this seemed to work two years ago when the world collapsed upon itself, as Cody Ross won the NLCS MVP and the San Francisco Giants opened up the gateway to the depths of Hell and won the World Series. Even in spite of their title, the Giants continue to disappoint the baseball watching world at large. SF should be busy establishing themselves as the next dynasty with their pitching, much like the Yankees did in the late nineties behind a dominant staff, a fantastic pen and of course, that juggernaut offensive lineup. The Giants don’t have the same type of checkbook that New York GM Brian Cashman had at his disposal, so Sabean struggles to cobble together another borderline feeble lineup season to season. The best part of this trade might be that Pence is under contract next season as well, albeit for nearly $14 million a year. I’d expect the Giants to try and sign him long-term, to a deal reminiscent of Aaron Rowand’s four-year, $60 million dollar pact. Pence might not be worth that type of money on the open market at large, but in the context of a SF team that always seems to be scrambling for hitters, it could be a shrewd deal in the future, relative to their usual situation.
The price to get Pence, like in the Giants’ trade for rental player Carlos Beltran a year ago for stud prospect Zach Wheeler, was steep. RP Seth Rosin is a 6’6″ minor leaguer whose 10.6 K/9 and 3:1 K/BB ratio are staggering for such a young player. C/1B Tommy Joseph is only 21 years old, and with a current .260 hitter in double-A, but will presumably have the chance to supplant incumbent Carlos Ruiz in a couple of years. OF Schierholtz is a perfectly capable fourth outfielder, but not more than that. He’s gotten every chance to succeed in the Bay, but has time and time again proven that he’s not capable of every day duty.
Again, like the Victorino trade, Ruben Amaro had to restock the cupboard for the Phillies, so trading Pence for a couple of young studs, no matter if their ceiling spelled out “superstar”, was important. It was clear during the middle of the season that Philadelphia was not going to resign the Flyin’ Hawaiian, so trading a player in Victorino who only had two months left for a non-playoff team was the most logical alternative. The only reason to trade a 29 year-old like Pence that could help a presumably reloaded and hopefully healthier Phillies team next season on the other hand, is the climbing payroll in Eastern PA. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins and Jonathan Papelbon are all signed up next year for a combined $100 million Filling out the rest of the roster and keeping Pence for $14 million, and then resigning him for a deal that would pay the man the same amount over four or five seasons, would put the Phils into luxury tax territory. Perhaps Ruben Amaro saw Pence as I’ve described on this post: an excellent offensive and defensive player, but certainly not a franchise guy. Trading him now, with a year left on his deal, might have been the best haul they could have gotten for him.
All in all, it’s a smart deal for both sides. The Phillies weren’t likely to keep Pence for the price he was going to go for, especially seeing that they’ll need to spend that type of money for a hitter that they could build an offense around, looking at how Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are trending downward negatively. The Giants had to do something when looking at a Dodgers’ lineup that now soundly eclipses their own, and both a bullpen and rotation to match the power arms in San Francisco. Trading for Pence keeps the Bruce Bochy’s team neck and neck with the Dodgers for the NL West crown. Though in my supremely unbiased viewpoint, I think LA has emerged as the division favorite, as well as perhaps the National League favorite to get to the World Series, the Giants have done everything they can to make sure it’s a fight to the finish. I see this trade, along with their excellent addition of surprising NL MVP candidate Cabrera in the offseason (which, to my dismay, I trashed at the time), giving SF the wherewithal to challenge the Dodgers, and at the very least, a wild card spot.