Analysis

Phillies Send Pence to Giants in 4-Player Deal

Moments after the Phillies finalized a deal sending Shane Victorino to the Dodgers (see story), reports surfaced that the Phils and Giants were close to completing a deal for Hunter Pence.

A few hours and a few issues later, the deal was finalized. Pence is on his way to San Francisco for three players: catching prospect Tommy Joseph, major league outfielder Nate Schierholtz and Single-A pitcher Seth Rosin.

The Phils and Giants had been negotiating all week, but the acquisition of Victorino by their NL West rival likely escalated talks between the parties.

Joseph is 21 years old, was a 2009 second-round pick and entered the season as the Giants’ No. 2 prospect, behind centerfielder Gary Brown. Joseph has a .315 wOBA in Double-A this season and has hit slightly below average relative to his level in each of his first three years in the minors. But then again, he’s only 21, and he’s in Double-A. So growing pains are to be expected. Last season, Joseph hit .270/.317/.471 with 22 home runs and 33 doubles at High-A San Jose.

Scouts consider him a viable catching option, which obviously increases his value to the team, with Carlos Ruiz a potential free agent after the 2013 season. The Phils also have Sebastian Valle waiting in the wings, though his struggles at Double-A have caused some concern. Plus, catcher is one position where depth is welcome. Acquiring Joseph means the Phillies have two solid catching prospects in the system.

Joseph, Rosin and Schierholtz might seem like an underwhelming return, but Joseph is now one of the top prospects in the Phillies’ system, Rosin has some potential, and Schierholtz, if platooned with Mayberry, could be pretty effective. It’s an interesting deal. Here’s why…

Schierholtz is an intriguing piece. He’s a corner outfielder currently in his first year of arbitration, who has seemingly settled into the .325 wOBA area. Given that the league average is .313, he is an above-average hitter. However, relative to outfielders, he is closer to average, as they have a collective .331 wOBA.

He plays solid defense, has an exceptional arm and runs the bases fairly well. Put together, Schierholtz is a perfectly average player who is best utilized in a platoon. This season, the lefty-hitting Schierholtz has a .363 wOBA against righties. Last year, he had a .346 wOBA against righties. He is a decent throw-in but nothing more.

Rosin, 23 years old, is a 6-foot-6 righty pitching in High-A. He looks like a big-time strikeout pitcher, although he may also be considered on the older side for his level. In 56.1 innings this year, he has a 10.9 K/9 and a 2.9 BB/9.

When the Giants Come to Town ranked Rosin No. 18 on their pre-season prospect list, suggesting that he might have the best fastball command of any pitcher the Giants have drafted since Madison Bumgarner. Rosin pounds the strike zone with both a two- and four-seam fastball and works to keep the ball on the ground. He throws around 93-96 mph as a reliever and features a changeup, as well. The Giants tried him as a starter but he seems primed for bullpen duty as his breaking ball is sub-par.

Fangraphs’ minor league expert, Marc Hulet, also summarized Rosin in his pre-season prospect rankings thusly:

SLEEPER ALERT: Seth Rosin, RHP: If you’re a rival executive talking trade with the Giants this winter you’ll want to ask for Rosin as a throw in to any deal. He’s made easy work of pro ball so far. He has a big, strong frame at 6’5” 240 lbs and has shown the ability to both start and relieve, while producing both strong strikeout rates and good ground-ball numbers. Despite spending the entire 2011 season in low-A (for no good reason), the club challenged the right-hander with an assignment to the Arizona Fall League and he’s more than held his own. As a pitcher from a northern state (Minnesota) he could be a late-bloomer.”

In trading Pence, the Phillies will free up approximately $14 million next season because they won’t have to worry about his final year of arbitration. They brought back a solid catching prospect, a big-strikeout relief pitching prospect, and a major leaguer who has utility as the left-handed bat in an outfield platoon. It’s not the sexiest return, but bolstering depth at an important position and freeing up money are both long-term interests of this organization. And the Phillies accomplished both goals today.

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