Should the Phillies Call the Giants About Pence?

Good series, let’s go call the Giants about Pence?

Think back to your days in high school or college, to the girls or fellas that you dated. There were the ones that made you stay up at night, heart racing. You may have even written poetry or songs for them. Then, there was the moment that things got weird and you parted. You fell in love again, usually with someone new, married, and your former flame is long forgotten.

For a lot of fans, Hunter Pence was the player that got their palms sweaty and blood pumping. He was a handsome-yet-clumsy throwback to the 1970’s – a player whom writers used words reserved only for the most awkward-yet-talented, and oddly usually Caucasian, players. Writers called him a gritty gym rat and a hustler. Last year, the Phillies fell well out of contention and, frankly, things got weird. Pence and his penchant for eating after scoring game winning runs were sent to San Francisco where he won a World Series.

Since then, Domonic Brown has become an All-Star outfielder but there is a hole left unfilled in right field. There is one player that is likely available who can fill that hole – while I am one of the many who believe the steep cost of his acquisition may become one of the worst trades in Phillies history, that player’s name is Hunter Pence.

Why it Would Work

First and foremost: Pence is a clear upgrade over Delmon Young. Pence has contributed positive value on both defense and the basepaths adding to the value found in his .264/.307/.452 line with 13 HR and 13 SB line as of the time of writing. Pence’s fWAR stands at 2.3, already 0.7 wins higher than his total last year and 2.7 over Young’s fWAR.

Secondly, the Giants are in the middle of a tailspin the likes of which haven’t been seen by a team expected to contend since, well, last year’s Phillies. The defending champs sit 10 games under .500 as of the time of this writing, six and a half games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks with the entire NL West either tied or ahead of them. They currently sit ahead of only the Marlins and the Brewers in the standings. It is a rough year when the Cubs catch up to you.

Third, Pence is a free agent at the end of the year. If the Giants chose to go the route of keeping Pence until the end of the year and obtaining a compensatory draft choice, at a present salary of $13.8 million, a qualifying offer would likely be in the neighborhood of a $15-16 million for the Giants. If Pence did not get a satisfactory long-term offer, he may be inclined to take that offer.

Fourth, Pence is currently mired in a prolonged slump and his value couldn’t be lower. In his last 24 games, Pence’s average has dropped 34 points and has hit just .168/.200/.263 with two homers and 22 Ks. This is a pretty ideal buy-low opportunity for the suddenly-believing Phillies.

Fifth, it likely wouldn’t take a whole lot to re-acquire Pence. Acquired last year for Tommy Joseph, Seth Rosin, and Nate Schierholtz, Pence’s trade value is likely even lower this season. Joseph was and is a non-top 100 prospect, Rosin projects to be a fifth starter in the Major Leagues, and Schierholtz had played his entire career until this year like a platoon outfielder. Duplicating that sort of haul could look like Cameron Rupp, Ethan Martin, and Freddy Galvis or Cesar Hernandez, Leandro Castro, and Rosin. Those groups may be enough to get it done – would you do it?

And finally, other than the trade that brought Pence to Philadelphia, General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. has been reasonably successful playing the percentages. With one very large, notable exception (Hey! Did you see Jarred Cosart is making his Major League debut Friday night?).

The group that went to Cleveland for Cliff Lee? That turned out to be two role players, a starter who has a 5.47 Major League ERA and was again demoted, and a lottery ticket arm that flamed out almost as soon as he joined Cleveland’s organization. How about the group that was traded to Toronto for Roy Halladay? Travis D’Arnaud is now 24 – once a sure-fire prospect, injuries are now clouding his future. Michael Taylor has played in just 26 Major League games, hitting .135, and Kyle Drabek, well, I feel really bad for all of the issues Drabek has had. I would agree that the verdict is still out on the Roy Oswalt acquisition, although Jonathan Villar and Anthony Gose have the potential to turn that deal into a loss. Prospects rarely actually become the players they are promised to become – that’s why teams get two or three of them when trading established veterans.

Why I Would Hesitate

But for all the wonderful things this hypothetical exercise brings (its plausibility and the “upgrade over Young” factor), there is legitimate reason to hesitate. Take for instance the fact that Pence is a free agent after 2013. Unless Pence would agree to some sort of reasonable long term deal before the trade, I don’t believe it is wise to deal for Pence for this reason alone. With Chase Utley‘s future uncertain, dealing either of Hernandez or Galvis would be a pretty gutsy move. Even with Castro’s recent success at Lehigh Valley, it is safe to say the Phillies currently do not have anyone in the pipeline to play right field. Trading something of value to plug a hole for half a season is the behavior that got the Phillies into the pickle they are in right now.

For those who say “Well, Pence may come cheap. Brian Sabean once gave up Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran,” my retort is their acquisition of Pence for pennies on the dollar, picking up Pat Burrell for nothing in 2010 and their two shiny World Series trophies in their display cases from 2010 and 2012. I’d also probably hit you on the other side with the trade that sent Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Domingo Santana, and Josh Zeid to Houston, too. The percentages are usually in the favor of the team acquiring the star but the first Pence deal was bad enough to sour my thoughts on Amaro’s ability to make a solid deal.

With the Phillies trying to move away from players in their thirties, how much sense does it make to acquire a player like Pence, who is now 30+, to sign him to a three, four, or even five year deal? The Phillies would be setting themselves up to duplicate their current problem instead of addressing it in more creative ways.

Ultimately, despite the fact that the Phillies could likely pull a trade off for Pence by giving up a few currently expendable pieces, I would not go that route but I would call. The price in prospects would have to be very low (a collection of 101-250-ranked guys) and Pence would have to agree to some sort of reasonable two year extension for me to pull the trigger if I were GM. The first part is doable, the second part is highly unlikely. It is fun to dream, but for now, I think we’ll have to let the old flame burn out.




  1. EricL

    July 11, 2013 at 11:21 pm


    (well, maybe. depends on the price. if he’s cheap (he won’t be) then in theory I’d take him as an upgrade over Delmon Young)

    • loupossehl

      July 12, 2013 at 1:04 am

      Granted that Delmond, every Phillies fan’s favorite pinata, has a stone glove. But neither was Hunter Pence regarded as the next Roberto Clemente. I don’t know all the numbers, but over the past 4-6 weeks or so, Delmond has delivered at the plate. (Over the 10-game stretch not including today, he was 11 for 34, including an 8-game hitting streak. Unfortunately, his power stats sucked as he had exactly one extra base hit.)

      At least for now, Delmon fills a void, provides a badly needed RH bat, and if he could get more of his 240-lb frame into the ball … who knows.

      If we paid even a modest price for Pence, once we figured out the total price for getting him, letting him go, and then getting him again we’d probably kill ourselves. We should hold our collective noses, go with what we have, and go shopping in the off-season.

    • joecatz

      July 12, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Ian and I discussed this jokingly last night and we both came to the same conclusion.

      1. He’ll ALREADY BE IN PHILLY ANYWAY ON 7/31!!
      2. I don’t see them offering him a QO. They didn’t chance it with Pagan, and I don’t see em doing it with Pence, either, so if they see no QO, and not resigning hi, they let him walk for nothing (other than a WS win last year)

      I don’t think it happens, but if my choices are a lesser give for Pence and the chance to extend him for three years vs a bigger haul for Alex Rios, and paying him 12mm in 14 and 15? Its something to consider. that said, the Phillies would have to go something like 8-4 minimum to be in the poistion to think about something like this between now and the break (deadline)

  2. Cs

    July 12, 2013 at 12:05 am

    Could we buy low in Pence and trade Delmon to Baltimore for a RP?

  3. sgoldwasser

    July 12, 2013 at 1:43 am

    No, lets go for Castellanos or Pederson. Utley part of a trade for Joc Pederson, or Castellanos as value for Papelbon. I think we go for major league ready talent, under 25. If we obtain a right fielder, such as the two named earlier, Delmon Young would have to be exited. Pence, while very good, may be older than the Phils want to go right now. I’m not saying Pence is old at all, just go for players with a 10 to 12 year future, not 3 or 4 years.

  4. sgoldwasser

    July 12, 2013 at 1:48 am

    I don’t like the idea of trading Martin or Hernandez.

  5. Pamikedc

    July 12, 2013 at 4:52 am

    @Sgokdwasser, I agree w u

  6. DavidE

    July 12, 2013 at 5:38 am

    No. Pence isn’t that good a player and he has a big contract. His RBI total is the same as Ryan Howard and he hits behind Buster Posey whose OBP is .392. Let’s face it. His acquisition didn’t help the Phillies the first time around. If the Phillies had kept Schierholtz, they might have actually gotten the better of that deal.

  7. Lefty

    July 12, 2013 at 6:47 am

    IMO- This team should not be a buyer, they’re playing well right now with what they have, so play it out. See if they continue to play well. If so, in August look for a waiver pick up on a reliever, -maybe. If they don’t continue to play well, sell some parts for prospects.

    And sell Papelbon NOW. We were talking about Lee missing spots yesterday, this guy hits only about 60% of what Chooch puts up there, watch the next time he pitches. It’s what happens to guys that are losing their velocity, they try to overthrow, and can’t hit the mitt anymore. In a year, maybe sooner maybe longer, that’s going to spell disaster, better that it happen to some other team.

    • Ryne Duren

      July 12, 2013 at 7:22 am

      Spot on Lefty! this little up tic in winning right now is a muse. I’d stay pat though for another week and a half just to be safe. And if they go into one of their funks again. Well if I was running the show the gloves would come off and big changes would be made. I’d go for prospects and call ups and prepare for the future.

      • Lefty

        July 12, 2013 at 8:08 am

        Ryne thanks for your comment, nice to see you around pal. I don’t advocate a total blow up, I don’t think that could work well here. It worked in Boston last year as they already had a strong farm system in place, unfortunately from everything I read, we don’t. (disclaimer- I know nothing about the minor leagues, I don’t follow them, only what I read)

    • Johanna

      July 12, 2013 at 8:16 am

      I wouldn’t be adverse to selling Pap but who would close for us? Certainly not Bastardo…he is more of a nailbiter than Pap.

    • joecatz

      July 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      this would be my preferred course of action, with one addition, I’d trade Mchael Young too.

  8. Brooks

    July 12, 2013 at 7:33 am

    From what little I know about hitting (just going with offense right now), Pence is a mess.
    Sure he has some power but doesn’t it seem like he winds up to swing based on nothing?
    It looks like he swings from the heels regardless of where the ball is thrown, swinging as hard as he can, corkscrew motion and he gets lucky once in a while..
    I think he’s wild, not a fan.
    IMO – do not get him back.

    • Double Trouble Del

      July 12, 2013 at 9:12 am

      Right on Brooks. I couldn’t take two months of that corkscrew undisciplined swing again.

  9. Chuck A.

    July 12, 2013 at 7:47 am

    Lefty – if the Phillies are to contend ( and the feeling is that they think they will) then they need to at least TRY and ADD a piece to the bullpen…not get rid of one. Just who would be the closer?? Bastardo?? Unless they are 10 games under or 10 games or more out at the break I can’t see them trading away Papelbon.

    • Lefty

      July 12, 2013 at 8:06 am

      Reasonable question. Now you know why no one has ever hired me to run their ball club!

      Honestly, I would go with closer by committee and see if someone breaks out. I kind of like JC Ramirez, and wouldn’t mind giving Stutes another try again because he has a proven track record, and seems to perform best when under pressure. Of course Bastardo is an option too.

      If you wait until waivers, there’s a guy on the Angels that I don’t believe has ever pitched for them, he’s been injured the whole time he’s been there! Maybe, just maybe, they are losing patience with him. He’s now on his rehab assignment, some guy by the name of Madson.

      • Chuck A.

        July 12, 2013 at 8:15 am

        That’s fine, I get that. But I really don’t think they should or will do that unless they are really far out of it. Let’s face it…if they go on another 7-3 run they will be sitting pretty. A lot will be determined after the Cardinals and Tigers series.

        I like Ramirez, too. I remember Jayson Stark talking about him a few years back when that trade was made and said that Ramirez was the guy that they were really high on and to keep an eye on him. Cause let’s face it…I don’t think Aumont will ever get it together to be successful and Gillies, while playing better, is probably not gonna be someone that’s will go very far.

      • Lefty

        July 12, 2013 at 11:27 am

        Speaking of the Cardinals I remember them winning a WS with a bullpen that looked sketchy at best in mid season. We were beating Jason Motte pretty easily, and then he went on a tear, along with Alphabet soup guy, and some old guy that I remember Andrew complained over and over and over for years that struck out Howard 🙂

        It’s possible for a conglomeration of a bullpen to come together, it’s just not something you can count on. I see all the signs in Papelbon that I saw in Doc, and I want out of the Paps business ASAP. Doc’s contract is up, he’s no problem if he can’t pitch, (I love Doc, I hope he can) but if Paps can’t, that’s a lot of payroll dedicated to dead weight for two years.

      • joecatz

        July 12, 2013 at 12:26 pm

        I’m kind of surprised no one is mentioning Brian Wilson.

      • Ken Bland

        July 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm

        Brian Wilson’s been mentioned a couple times on this blog. It t really doesn’t even have to do with worrying about how effective he is, which one can assume is pretty much so or the topic won’t come to pass.. It has to do with his signability. Money aside, what is the appeal to him? There might be one hidden in his background, but no Philadelphia connection is apparent. Like if we were talking Andrew Bailey, with his home town roots, you could discuss it.

        The other “problems” with Wilson include how interested he is in a setup role, and the point at which the money is negotiated. You could conceivably deal Papelbon for potential strength elsewhere, and maybe cover the closer role with Wilson, but that seems like water cooler exercise. It just doesn’t seem like a Phillie move. Besides, not that my projection matters in the scheme of things, but I don’t see the interest in Papelbon matching the frequency of rumor reports. I suspect if the market dictates setup, Brian would take it. Obviously, high bid could offset any lack of Phillie interest/connection. But no less than division rival Atlanta, not to mention among others would seem to do well with an extra pen arm, and the standings might be a lure to him toward Dixie. Maybe he liked the south while at LSU.

        Decent exploration mission. Longshot.

    • Johanna

      July 12, 2013 at 8:17 am

      I didn’t read down far enough to see someone already asked my question

      • Lefty

        July 12, 2013 at 11:56 am

        That happens to me frequently.

  10. Jerry

    July 12, 2013 at 8:18 am

    Great analysis, Ian. Well done. As to the question, I’m sold that the Phils should concentrate on the future.

  11. George

    July 12, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Pence would be more harmful than helpful, because he’d cost too much for his abilities. There’s also usually a reason when someone’s “trade value is likely even lower this season.”

    And by the way, Ian, Schierholtz is still really a platoon player, despite his decent numbers. Almost all of his at bats have been against right handers.

    • hk

      July 13, 2013 at 8:24 am


      You are right that Schierholtz is only a platoon player, but he’s on the more often used side of the platoon as ~70% of PA’s are vs. RHP’s. A good fielding, LHB platoon player is a valuable commodity, especially if he costs ~$1.5M and remains under team control for the following season(s). Giving him away was a mistake as a Schierholtz / JMJ platoon would have provided great value in RF this year.

  12. Hogey's Role

    July 12, 2013 at 9:52 am

    I don’t trade any of those 5 players to get pence… I like pence,i wouldn’t mind having him back especially over delmon young…

    however I’d rather call up Castro or Gillies and see what they can do at this level…

    I wouldn’t give alot to get pence back though, maybe give them rosin back, and Jim Murphy and a ptbnl if we had to, but I think that’s still an over pay

  13. Joecatz

    July 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    You know here’s another thing to consider. When they traded for pence they were a game ahead of the dodgers in the west and 4 off the wild card. They also had just lost melky. They were desperate for an OF. They likely overpaid for pence.

    • Lefty

      July 12, 2013 at 6:27 pm

      Interesting to think that they overpaid. Because if they did, then the previous year……

  14. Don't_Look_Ethel

    July 12, 2013 at 8:56 pm




  15. NeilS

    July 13, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    Personally I think JMJ Jr. is an upgrade over Delmon Young. All it would cost us is to write his name in the lineup.

  16. Fritz

    July 16, 2013 at 9:08 am

    We should be conservative buyers. We have 2/3 of a good young outfield. Perhaps Hernandez can be converted to complete the trio. I’m okay with our infield and as I understand it help is on the way next year.We need bullpen help, I think that’s where we should concentrate our efforts.

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