In a move that’s been bubbling away since Monday, the Giants have officially traded for Hunter Pence.
First, what the Giants gave up in Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz, and Seth Rosin. In my trade value post a few days ago, I wrote the following about Tommy Joseph:
Joseph is still a young catcher – he just turned 21 – that’s held his own in Double-A Richmond. His batting line of .264/.313/.400 isn’t the stuff of legend, but his raw skills combined with his age, league context, and improvements on defense make him a pretty solid prospect.
On one hand, Joseph’s ceiling ranks much higher than someone like Gary Brown – who in his best, theoretical years will post 3-4 win seasons – and it hurts to lose a guy with the upside that Joseph has. However, on the other hand, the Giants still have some depth at catcher with Hector Sanchez looking like the back-up catcher for the foreseeable future. The Giants entered the season with substantial depth at the catching position – Joseph, Sanchez, and Susac – and look to exit the season with much, much less depth. Susac’s year – and the .219/.340/.338 batting line that’s accompanied it – has been very disappointing for a high college draft pick; Hector Sanchez’s career is hard to peg down, but he might want to swing the bat a little less; and Joseph is now gone to the Phillies. Such is the life of prospects, I guess.
I think it’s worth noting that with Buster Posey transitioning back so well from his injury, the Giants might’ve been a little more motivated to dip into their catching prospect vault.
Regarding Nate, he’s a perfectly fungible fringe-starter, but mostly fourth outfielder type. Nate’s defense in right field has always been a plus, but as a hitter, he’s a career 93 wRC+ batter. He’s earning $1.3M this season and will arbitration eligible in 2013 and 2014. Not a bad piece to get back in a trade. He’ll help the Phillies OF depth right now.
Seth Rosin is a 23-year-old pitching prospect that’s played in San Jose this year. He was drafted in the 4th round by the Giants in the 2010 draft. Rosin started this season in the bullpen, but has lately been starting for San Jose. Rosin’s been rocking solid peripherals in High-A baseball – 2.9 BB/9, 10.9 K/9 – but long term, he profiles better as a reliever. He would have made my “minor trade chips” designation in my trade value post had I listed him. Baseball America did not include him in the Giants top 30 prospects this year.
In return, the Giants receive 29-year-old right-handed hitting Hunter Pence. Pence, coming off a BABIP-fueled legitimately excellent 2011, is hitting .271/.336/.447 (111 wRC+) in 2012. On offense, over his career, Pence is a 118 wRC+ batter; clearly an above-average hitter, but not exactly of the same caliber of some of the top offensive players in baseball.
For example: from 2007-20012, among qualified hitters, Pence has ranked as the 64th best hitter in baseball by wRC+. He’s tied with hitters such as Jose Reyes, Nick Markakis, and Nick Swisher. Good hitters, but not exceptional hitters. Over that same period, his fWAR (20.6) puts him as the 40th best player in baseball.
Defensively, the advanced metrics, career-wise, paint a pretty good picture of Pence on defense. By UZR/150 he’s a career +2.6 run fielder in RF. Defensive Runs Saved has him cumulatively at +23 runs over his career in RF – that’s total runs saved, not on a per season basis like UZR/150 – and between 2009-2011 the Fan Scouting Report gave him the following marks of +7, +3, and +3 runs. Though, it’s again worth noting that Pence has had defensive struggles this year – 2012 UZR/150 of -12.5 runs – and it’s something that Pence has acknowledged. It’s hard to say how well he’ll be able to handle the tricky RF corners and angles in AT&T Park; hopefully, he’ll be able to play defense in a near average-ish fashion.
Contractually speaking, the Giants will retain rights to Pence in 2013 via arbitration. He’s earning $10.4M this season and it’s expected that he’ll cost the team around $15M next season. Clearly if the Giants are taking on Pence, they’re going to adjust their payroll slightly (though, it’s also looking like the Phillies are sending some cash back in this deal). There should be some wiggle room for the budget in 2013 with the Aaron Rowand, Freddy Sanchez, and Aubrey Huff contracts coming off the books – some of that will be assumed by Matt Cain’s newest deal.
To sum things up: The Giants get the right-handed bat that they’ve been coveting this trade deadline, but at a somewhat high price. Joseph is the prize in the deal here for the Phillies. Nate and Rosin are both nice additions to the package from the Phillies perspective. The Giants get an above-average player that should slightly help their chances down the stretch drive. Pence isn’t as a good as some might think, but he’s been an above-average player for a while now. If his defense can rebound, it’s a nice pick-up for the team; if his defense is still terrible, the difference between him and someone like Gregor Blanco could be shockingly small – though, Pence has a much better track record, and that counts for something.
Oh, and very pleased that the team held onto Belt. Also glad to see Gary Brown staying in the organization as he fits the Giants’ needs in 2013 and beyond better than someone like Tommy Joseph.
Theoretically once Sandoval gets back, we could see this lineup:
1. Blanco, CF – or potentially Pagan
2. Scutaro, 2B
3. Cabrera, LF
4. Posey, C
5. Sandoval, 3B
6. Pence, RF
7. Belt, 1B
8. Crawford, SS
UPDATE: Fellow SweetSpot blog, Crashburn Alley, weighed in on the Pence trade, here.