The Phillies acquiring Hunter Pence from the Astros ranks as CBSSports.com Rumor blog’s fifth-best trade-deadline deal involving a premier player since 2007.
Trade: Philadelphia acquires Hunter Pence from Houston for Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton and Josh Zeid.
The reason behind the deal: Philadelphia had a 4.5 game lead in the NL East but sensed a weak spot in right field, where Ben Francisco was playing every day and hitting .225/.342/.358. Although Dominic Brown and John Mayberry Jr. were in the pipeline, the chance to add Pence for 2011, as well as his final two arbitration seasons of 2012 and 2013, was appealing.
The Astros dug themselves into the hole they find themselves in today largely thanks to not selling or even buying when they had no chance to contend. At 28-53 on June 29, not even Drayton McLane could have aspirations at the playoffs, and so they sold Pence as well as Michael Bourn.
Aftermath: The Phillies were 51-30 before the Pence trade; they went 51-30 after it. They easily won the NL East division and at 102-60 were the National League's top seed in the playoffs. Pence did his part, hitting .324/.394/.560, good for a tremendous 159 OPS+.
Partially thanks to Philadelphia's final regular-season victory against Atlanta, the Phillies were matched with the Cardinals in the NLDS, a series they would lose 3-1 despite the home field advantage.
How it shaped today's team: The Phillies have failed in 2012, but they see the season more as a year to retool than rebuild. That means Pence will likely stick around for the 2013 season, his last arbitration year. He'll be due a raise over his $10.4 million salary as well, and the Phillies already have $112 million in salary committed before accounting for Pence or a potential Cole Hamels extension.
Whereas Pence was easily worth the money in 2011, he has slipped back to his normal performance in 2012. His .277/.344/.470 line marks a solid 118 OPS+, but it's a significant step down from his performance in the second half of last season. Particularly with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard dealing with injury and aging, Pence will have to play like a major star for the Phillies to return to prominence, not just an above-average player.
The Astros earned a pair of excellent prospects in the deal. Cosart has a 3.86 ERA at Double-A Corpus Christi and was the 50th overall prospect in MLB according to Baseball America entering the season. Singleton, No. 34 overall, has been even more impressive, with a .279/.398/.489 line at Corpus Christi at just 20 years old.
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