Trading Hunter Pence

Lets start off by saying the trade by the Phillies to acquire Hunter Pence from Houston was horrible, there is no way around it, but it has no bearing on any further deal.  With that being said let’s go to the summer of 2012, the Phillies were struggling, in no small part due to varying levels of poor performance and injuries between Roy Halladay, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard, and Hunter Pence.  It was becoming clear that it was time for the Phillies to make some moves to free up money and restock a farm system that was down after the Phillies had used their last blue chip prospects to acquire Hunter Pence.

The Trade:

The Phillies traded Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants for Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin, and Nate Schierholtz

Hunter Pence hit .324/.394/.560 for the Phillies down the stretch in 2011, but in 2012 he was hitting .271/.336/.447 for the Phillies with sub par defense.  He was owed $10.4 million in 2012 and was in line for one more year of arbitration that was widely accepted to be worth about $13 million.  Despite being worth 5.6 WAR in 2011, Pence had only been worth 0.8 WAR for the Phillies through 101 games.

Tommy Joseph was the San Francisco Giants #2 prospect entering the 2012 season according to Baseball America.  Here is what they had to say about the former 2nd round pick.

More impressively, he made major defensive improvements, earning San Jose’s defensive player of the year award and leading the California League by throwing out 37 percent of basestealers. Joseph’s short, direct swing generates plenty of backspin and gives him plus power to all fields. He needs to improve his approach and plate discipline in order to cut down on his strikeouts and hit for a higher average. His power will play at first base, where he has seen time, but Joseph now looks like he’ll be able to stay at catcher after making huge strides blocking balls and cleaning up his footwork. He has plus arm strength and accuracy but just an average release. Giants coaches say his acumen and game-calling skills might be second only to Buster Posey in the organization.

Seth Rosin was the Giants 4th round pick in 2010 and was pitching as a reliever in hi-A for the Giants with a 4.31 ERA 2.88 BB/9 10.86 K/9 as a 23 year old.  His fastball was in the low-90s touching 95, he paired it with fringy off-speed pitches but a real sense for the strike zone.  Many scouts thought the stuff would play well in a starting rotation and had him as a potential steal for a team in a trade.

Nate Schierholtz peaked as the Giants #4 prospect coming into the 2008 season after being a 2nd round pick in 2003.  Across his first 6 major league seasons Schierholtz had hit .270/.319/.409 for the Giants and was currently hitting .251/.321/.417 for the Giants in 2012.  Schierholtz was widely regarded as an elite corner outfield defenders, but a little light on the bat.

Overall evaluators liked the trade at the time for the Phillies with Keith Law say that:

It’s a very good return for Pence, not close to what the Phillies gave up last summer, but excellent considering Pence’s potential cost next year.

What Happened the Rest of 2012

Hunter Pence hit .219/.287/.384 for the Giants who went on to win the World Series.  There was a lot of speculation that the Giants would non-tender Pence a contract, but instead they reached a deal for a 1 year $13.8 million contract.

Tommy Joseph was rated the #3 prospect in the Phillies system by Baseball America behind Jesse Biddle and Roman Quinn.

Seth Rosin was converted to a full-time starter by the Phillies.

Nate Schierholtz was inexplicably non-tendered by the Phillies after he hit .273/.319/.379, he signed with the Cubs for $2,250,000.

Now

Pence has been worth a combined 7.2 WAR the past two seasons for the Giants and was signed this past offseason to a 5yr $90million contract.  Tommy Joseph hasn’t been healthy due to concussion issues and other injuries.  Rosin was left exposed to the Rule V draft where he was selected but eventually returned, he has been a bit of mess, but has shown flashes as a full-time reliever.  Schierholtz flashed potential in 2013, but has been worth a combined 0.5 WAR the past two years for the Cubs.

Alternatives

  1.  Hold Pence Until the Offseason: To make this assumption you are assuming that Pence does much better for the Phillies than he did for the Giants.  His trade value the offseason was next to nothing and the Phillies would have been very unlikely to return close to the value the Phillies received.

2. Trade Pence for Different Prospects: At the time the Giants top prospects according to Baseball America were Gary Brown, Tommy Joseph, Heath Hembree, Joe Panik, and Francisco Peguero.  Adding to that list and coming on strong was RHP Kyle Crick, Crick was starting to become the Giants top prospect at the time.  So how are those guys doing.

  • Gary Brown – Speedy, great defensive center fielder, is currently hitting .270/.323/.395 in AAA has a 25-year-old in the PCL.  He slipped to #19 on the Giants list this past year and profiles as a 5th outfielder at best
  • Heath Hembree – Potential elite bullpen arm, threw 7.2 innings for the Giants last year, but is currently sporting a 3.46 ERA in AAA at age 25, he has had large strikeout rates, but also large bouts of wildness.
  • Joe Panik – Panik is currently playing 2B for the Giants and hitting .210/.265/.242, he profiles best as a utility bench player
  • Francisco Peguero – Peguero is now in the Orioles organization and continues to have tools and no results
  • Kyle Crick – Still the Giants #1 prospect, for now, it has become increasingly likely he doesn’t have the control to start and is more of a reliever long-term.

In the end not a lot better out there.

3. Hold Onto Pence: In the end, does it really matter.

In 2013 the Phillies right fielders combined for -2.4 WAR a 6.5 win swing from having Hunter Pence in RF.  The Phillies go on to finish 79-83 they have the 16th pick in the draft and take Touki Toussaint instead of Aaron Nola in the 2014 draft (and so on down the line).

In 2014 Pence represents a 1 win improvement over Marlon Byrd, the Phillies are 44-56 and only 12 games back in the division.

They still owe Pence a large chunk of money through his decline phase.

In the end get over the Pence trade, bad things happened afterwards, especially to Tommy Joseph, but that is the nature of trading an established player for prospects.  The Phillies were never going to get back the original return, and Pence wouldn’t have gotten them out of the mess they are in now.  There is no point in continuing to dwell on the past and using 20/20 hindsight, because you are always going to be off.  The second Hunter Pence trade was good in the moment, it hasn’t worked out, but it is not a reason for where they are now.

Photo By Keith Allison

Author: Matt Winkelman

Matt Winkelman
Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has appeared on Phuture Phillies, The Good Phight, and TheDynastyGuru.

3 comments

  1. Handzus

    I agree also. I’ve always defended this trade even though it hasn’t worked out great. Looking at the players we got back now though, it’s almost like the Phils traded for Tommy Joseph and two guys who they didn’t think were really that good, considering they let Schierholtz walk and Rosin is repeating Reading in a lesser role than he had last year. With all the filler in the Reading and LHV rotations this year, I’m not sure why Rosin wasn’t given a chance to keep starting. His peripherals really weren’t so bad in AAA.

  2. Ghost of Manny Trillo

    Nice article. What bugs most people is not so much parting ways with Pence in 2012 as it was the subsequent postseason decision to let Schierholz go for nothing, which was of course compounded by his having a good first half in 2013.