Thursday, July 26, 2012

Trade Target - Hunter Pence

Let's get this out of the way right up front -- everything Hunter Pence does is awkward.  I imagine he even eats soup with his elbows extended high in the air with the same arm bar he uses when he bats.  Watching Pence hit, run, and throw is like a sex crime to the eyes for a baseball purist, I would guess.

But what he can do is play baseball and play baseball at an amazing consistent level.  Pence made his debut with the Astros in 2007 and played 108 games (2/3 of a season) that year.  In the four full years since then (2008 to 2011), Pence played in 157, 159, 156, and 154 games.  In those same four years, Pence hit 25, 25, 25, and 22 home runs.  In that first year in 2007?  17 homers.  In 2012 through 98 games? 17 homers -- on pace for 27 homers if he plays 156 games.

If you want some second tier stats, Pence's Isolated Power (slugging minus batting average, to reflect extra base power) has been a tight range of .179 to .197 in his 4 full years.  It's .180 this year.  His WAR totals for 2008 to 2011 have gone from 3.2 to 4.7, with the average around 3.8/year.  This year he is only at 1.2, but it is mostly a poor defensive rating that is dragging that down.  His offensive component is relatively the same as in past years.  That Weighted On Base Average (wOBA) has gone from .334 to .378.

This year Father Time has started to catch up with the Phillies.  Their 46-54 record has forced them to consider re-tooling their lineup, but they have some fairly immovable contracts due to veterans that have injury concerns (Halladay, Utley, Howard) or are on terrible deals (Howard).  They are in desperate need of an injection of youth to this graybeard team.  Oddly, the Phillies decided to try and spend their way out of the morass by extending Cole Hamels to a 6 year $144M deal, but he is at least in the prime of his career.

All of this brings us back to Pence.  Next year, Pence will go to arbitration for the 4th and final time.  After 2013, he will be a free agent, so any team interested will have him for more than a rental like Shane Victorino.  However, unlike Victorino, Pence is still good at baseball.

In Pence's 4 arbitration years, his salaries have been $3.5M, $6.9M, $10.4M so far to date.  If you use the 20-40-60-80% of free market value for a Super 2 player, Pence can expect to make around $14M in 2013.  That would set his free market value at around $17.5M/year.  Using the $5M/WAR estimate, that would put Pence at around 3.5 WAR...very close to the 3.8 WAR/year I discussed earlier.

If Pence put up 3.5 WAR in 2013 and was paid $14M, that would be a surplus value of $3.5M.  Assume he wouldn't give any surplus value in 2012 due to his inflated $10.4M salary and low WAR this year due to his defense.  Finally, since Pence is not a rental any team acquiring him could offer arbitration after 2013 and receive a comp pick if he turns it down.  Those picks have had a value of $2.5M in recent years.  Adding all that up gives you a surplus value of $6M for acquiring Pence.

In terms of prospect worth, that would be one Grade B hitter -- like a Matt Curry or Alex Dickerson type.  You could also make it work with some Grade C pitchers like a Bryan Morris, Zack Von Rosenberg, Justin Wilson combo.

Pence would lock down RF for the Pirates for the next year and change, all at a low prospect cost.  Of course the prospect cost would rise if Philly kicked in money, but they probably need to save a few sheckels these days.


  1. Would love this, but there's about zero chance in the Nine Hells that Amaro, Jr. is giving up Pence for JUST Alex Dickerson.

    Phillies paid out the ASS to acquire him and we already know that they have a woodrow for Lincoln. Would expect they'd be asking for a lot more that what you're projecting. Yeah, they need to get money off the books for next year, but that doesn't mean they're going to be firesaling a guy they paid a premium for within the last 365 days.

  2. True, but last year was 1 year ago. Now they (and every team trading for him) has 1 less year of control. Less value. Plus, he's worth just a shade more than his salary. He's not a real bargain.

    And...Ruben Amaro is a terrible GM.