Heading into the All-Star break, there is very little for Phillies fans to be excited about. Sixteen games behind the Nationals in the loss column, the Phillies lost their 50th game today, reaching a milestone they did not hit until the 144th game last year. Arguing whether it is the offense or the pitching’s fault is half a dozen of one versus six of the other; one scores one too little, the other gives up one too many. Yet, there are a few things to be excited about, and one of them is the development of Jeremy Horst and how they acquired him is a positive for the Phillies moving forward.
Horst, 26, was not and is not a particularly notable prospect. In fact, our Phillies Nation preseason assessment saw him project as little more than a September call-up. In 36 games for Triple-A Louisville in 2011, Horst posted a 2.81 ERA across 51 IP, earning a call-up to the Reds. Horst stranded 84.9% runners he inherited for the Reds, posting a 2.93 ERA in 15.1. Horst has struggled in both the Major and Minor league levels at walking batters at a 3.04 BB/9 IP clip in his Minor league appearances but has excelled at striking batters out as well, averaging nearly a K/IP (.93). Horst’s strong campaign in Lehigh Valley in 2012 (2.11 ERA in 38.1 IP) coupled with Joe Savery‘s meltdown (9 ER in his last 5.1 IP) led to his promotion on June 28.
What is notable about Horst isn’t his 0.00 ERA in 5 IP or that he’s only allowed one hit. No, it is the fact that he has provided the Phillies with between $3.0 and $3.1 million of surplus value in the trade. At the time of the trade, our own Pat Gallen pointed out that there were a number of replacement level infielder available as free agents who could do the same job as Wilson Valdez, the man traded for Horst, and he was right. The Phillies in-house options Pete Orr (salary: $600,000, 2012 FanGraphs value: -$300,000, cost to Phillies: $900,000) and Michael Martinez (salary: $480,000, 2012 FanGraphs value: -$2,500,000, cost to Phillies: $2,980,000) have been equally or less ineffective than Valdez (salary: $930,000, 2012 FanGraphs value: -$2.1 million, cost to Reds: $3.13 million), while the Phillies plucked Mike Fontenot off the scrap heap after the Giants released him after Spring Training and was added to the Phils on May 13 and he has provided great value (salary: ~$600,000, 2012 FanGraphs value: $1.3 million, cost to Phillies: worth $700,000 in surplus). With a bloated payroll, moves like signing Fontenot and, more importantly, trading for Horst are what will keep this team competitive through some of the larger contracts, like Ryan Howard‘s and, to an extent, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee.
Horst, according to FanGraphs, has been worth +$400,000 already in just 5 IP, easily matching and exceeding his prorated $480,000 salary and making the net-win of the trade between $3 and $3.1 million for the Phillies in money and production. While it is a small and volatile sample size, it does not change the fact that the Phillies were able to turn an overpaid common player into somewhat of an asset. Horst may never become Steve Bedrosian of 1987 or J.C. Romero of 2007, but by trading Valdez, they avoided overpaying for a declining player that could, and was, easily replaced. The Phillies were able to do the something similar with Jim Thome in exchange for a high-reward 19-year old lotto ticket named Gabriel Lino, who FanGraph’s Mike Newman listed as “one of the top-5 catching prospects I’ve scouted in person in terms of talent and ceiling”. With news that the Reds have been scouting Juan Pierre, another opportunity is presented to sell at a time when the price is right and re-stock like they did when they traded Valdez for Horst.
I anticipate Horst to continue to be successful with the Phils and become one of their primary left-handed options out of the ‘pen. Horst has leap-frogged Savery, Phillippe Aumont, David Purcey, and Raul Valdes to make the team and now only has Antonio Bastardo and Jake Diekman in front of him to catch. Horst relies mostly on a fastball slider combo to get the opposition out but also throws what appears to be a change-up. Should Horst develop the change-up further, he should add even more surplus value to the Phils