The Phillies had been using a combination of Ben Francisco and Domonic Brown in right field for the majority of the season, and neither was remotely effective. In turn, it made Pence, who is a very good but not a great player, seem larger than life.
And when the trade deadline finally happened, general manager Ruben Amaro Jr had struck again. He made a deal with the Houston Astros, which is basically the minor league team for the Philadelphia Phillies (check how many players have played for both teams in the past few seasons because it’s unbelievable), for Pence. The right fielder was supposed to be the right handed bat that would help the Phillies capture their second world championship in four seasons.
Over his two months with the team, Pence did his job, and he did it very well, immediately becoming a fan favorite. He batted .324 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs, but when the postseason came, he collected just four singles in a five-game loss to the eventual world champion St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
And this season, Pence has come back to life.
In fact, he’s become almost downright irritable to watch for a lot of Phillies fans. He reminds me a lot of Jayson Werth for his struggles with runners in scoring position, and his awkward batting stance and hideous performance in the field has become a focal point for fans this season.
Let’s not forget that Pence also clearly showed that he can’t be a team’s go-to guy. When the Phillies didn’t have slugger Ryan Howard and Chase Utley in the first couple of months of the season, it was Pence who was supposed to step up and bat .700 with one or two home runs and three or four RBIs per game.
Instead, he turned in his usual performance, probably a little bit worse to be honest, and Philly fans let him have it.
Now he’s gone, so suddenly, and he’s not coming back.
So was it worth it?
First, let’s look at what would have happened if the Phillies did not trade for Hunter Pence last July. And I’ll be as blunt as possible.
Nothing would have changed. The Phillies still would have finished with their fifth consecutive National League East division title. They would have earned the best record in the major leagues. They would have lost to the Cardinals in the NLDS. And they would have struggled again this year.
Pretty interesting when you look at it that way, isn’t it?
Oh, and then there are the prospects that Philly gave up.
Jonathan Singleton, first base and left field. Jarred Cosart, starting pitcher. Domingo Santana, right field. The big sigh of relief in Philly was that Amaro never had to part ways with Domonic Brown, who he considered untouchable. So it’s ironic that Brown is now looking more and more like he could be a bust, while the three guys the Phillies did give up have “major league” written all over them.
Singleton and Cosart were arguably the top two prospects for the Phillies, excluding Domonic Brown, and Santana was a pretty good prospect himself.
Singleton, 20, is batting .281 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs in 101 games at Double-A. Oh, and he has a .397 on base percentage. He could have been the replacement for Ryan Howard in a couple of years. Nope. Gone.
Cosart, 22, pitched pretty well in Double-A, with a 5-5 record and a 3.52 earned run average in 15 starts. He has struggled in two starts since he moved up to Triple-A, but I have faith that he’ll turn it around quickly.
And Santana, 19, is tearing it up in A ball for Houston. He’s batting .295 with 17 home runs and 78 RBIs in 86 games. Oh, and he plays right field. Hey, so does Hunter Pence! Too bad the Phillies don’t have either on their team anymore.
So that’s Singleton, Cosart, and Santana for Pence. Not worth it.
Add in the one-year of Pence, which changed nothing for the Phillies, and catching prospect Tommy Joseph, minor league reliever Seth Rosin, and backup outfielder Nate Schierholtz, and it’s still not worth it.
I think contending teams get too obsessed with fixing a weakness on their team before the trade deadline, going all in, and selling their farm system. How many teams in recent history have won a World Series because of a midseason pickup?
Yeah, just about nobody has. Teams win championships, not midseason two-month player rentals.
Amaro has done a lot of things right during his tenure in Philly, more than people have realized. But the Pence trade wasn’t one of his best moments, and it looks even worse now that he had to correct his mistake just a year later.
This article was written by Bryn Swartz, the top writer for the Philadelphia Eagles and a featured NFL columnist on Rant Sports. Bryn has written more than 1000 articles in less than two years as a member of Rant Sports. His blog, Eagles Central, was named the 2010 Ballhyped Sports Blog of the Year. To read a portfolio of Bryn’s best work, click here.