After a week of mulling over the Phillies’ offer, the Houston Astros finally agreed to trade Hunter Pence to Philadelphia for High-A prospects Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton and two throw-ins. Speculation said the Astros also wanted either Jesse Biddle, Domonic Brown or Sebastian Valle included in this deal and were willing to wait until the offseason to re-offer Pence.
Both teams will be taking some risk. Pence carries the “over-rated” tag: His power never has fully developed, and there are some concerning downward trends (in speed, power and defense) not associated with most established 28-year olds.
This season, Pence is carrying around an elevated BABIP of .368, about 60 points higher than his usual rate. Most of this is probably due to an increase in his line-drive rate, which has usually been low.
Cosart is a right-handed pitcher who is drawing praise for his plus fastball and curve, which were on display at the recent Futures game in Arizona. Cosart is 21 and has the stuff to be considered one of the best pitching prospects in the game; however, his control and lack of a consistent change-up do have some scouts wondering if his ceiling is that of a high-leverage reliever.
Singleton has lost some of his prospect shine since his struggles last season. This season, he was forced to concentrate on defense as he moved from first base to left field in an effort to give his bat a future in Philadelphia. Singleton lacks the athleticism to make such a move effective, and this trade will allow him to shift back to his probable position of first base at High-A Lancaster. He is still only 19 years old, and a move to the hitter-friendly Cal League should help to improve his stock.
Despite these risks, I do like this trade for Philadelphia, mostly because it gives the team some focus for next season. Having Pence’s right-handed bat should be seen as a plus now, but with Raul Ibanez expected to leave after this season, the Phillies should have an outfield that includes two cost-controlled players under the age of 30 in Brown and Pence.
Making plans to win now while getting a bit younger in the future isn’t a bad strategy in Philadelphia.