Hunter Pence Rumors

NL Notes: Pence, Rockies, Lutz

Hunter Pence felt guilty after being traded from the Phillies to the Giants last season, Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News reports. "To be honest with you, I felt really guilty," says Pence. "I was heavily invested in bringing the Phillies back, and it felt like… I felt guilty. I felt like it was my fault that it fell apart." Pence hit .271/.336/.447 for the Phillies in 2012, and the team was 45-56 when it dealt Pence near the end of July. Here are more notes from around the National League.

  • The Rockies are off to a surprising start, but Jeff Francis and Juan Nicasio haven't been positive parts of it, and it remains to be seen how long they'll be in the rotation, the Denver Post's Troy Renck writes. Francis has a 7.27 ERA thus far, and Nicasio has only lasted longer than five innings once this season.
  • The Rockies might have payroll flexibility to take on salary in a trade for a starter at midseason, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. But that payroll flexibility will be tied to increased revenue, a club official says.
  • Outfielder Donald Lutz of the Reds, who made his big-league debut last week, is likely the first German-raised player in MLB history, says Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. Lutz was born in the U.S., and his father is American, but his mother is German, and Lutz moved to Germany as a baby. Morosi points out that Germany lags behind the Netherlands and Italy in its development of baseball players, but that could easily change, since Germany is so populous.

Transaction Retrospection: The First Hunter Pence Trade

The Astros entered 2013 with a shockingly low payroll by today's standards thanks to a number of offseason trades that were intended to boost their farm system. It's nothing new for Houston — a team that hasn't finished above .500 since the 2008 season. General manager Jeff Luhnow and his staff have done a terrific job of amassing young talent to build promise for the future, but the first step may have been taken by Luhnow's predecessor — Ed Wade.

In July 2011, the last-place Astros had a number of desireable pieces on their roster, but perhaps none more appealing than Hunter Pence. The 28-year-old right fielder was hitting .308/.356/.471 with 11 homers when the Astros traded him to the Phillies (along with $2MM) for a package of four prospects: first baseman Jonathan Singleton (19 years old at the time), right-hander Jarred Cosart (21), right-hander Josh Zeid (24) and right fielder Domingo Santana (18).

Let's look at all of the players involved…

The Major League Side

  • Hunter Pence: The Phillies acquired a year-and-a-half of Pence's service in the deal. He slid into the Phillies' lineup and immediately provided a boost. Pence had homered 11 times in 100 games for the Astros but matched that total in just 54 games for the Phils. He closed out the season on a torrid pace, hitting .324/.394/.560 in 236 trips to the plate as the Phillies marched to a 102-win season and a first-place finish. Pence's second season with the Phillies Pence didn't go as well; his Musial-esque 159 OPS+ dropped to 108, and he was eventually traded to the Giants for a package of players highlighted by catcher Tommy Joseph (that trade could be a whole new post). All told, the Phillies parted with four prospects and were rewarded with 676 plate appearances worth of .289/.357/.486 production and average right field defense. Fangraphs pegs Pence's value in Phildelphia at 3.6 wins above replacement.

The Minor League Side

  • Jonathan Singleton: Singleton has emerged as the best prospect in this deal (Cosart, at the time, was regarded slightly higher). Baseball America ranked him as the game's 39th-best prospect prior to 2011, and he now occupies the No. 27 spot on that list. MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo agrees with that ranking and places him first among Astros prospects. BA calls Singleton "the best first base prospect in baseball," noting his plus raw power and ability to hit to all fields. Mayo agrees that he's the best first base prospect in the game, and both think that Singleton could be in the Majors as soon as this season. He hit .284/.396/.497 with 21 homers as a 20-year-old at Double-A last season. Houston fans will have to wait, however, as Singleton is serving a 50-game suspension after testing positive for marijuana.
  • Jarred Cosart: Cosart's stock has fallen after a 2012 season that was slowed by recurring blisters on his pitching hand. He still posted a solid 3.30 ERA, 7.2 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9 in 114 2/3 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. He's fallen out of BA's Top 100 and ranks as Houston's No. 7 prospect in their eyes, but Mayo is more of a believer; he ranks Cosart No. 89 in the game and No. 4 in the Astros' system. Both feel that Cosart's stock would soar if he could improve his command of a plus curveball with 11-to-5 break, as it would complement what BA refers to an "electric" fastball that sits 96-97 mph. Some feel that Cosart could end up as a closer, but control of his curveball could have him sitting atop Houston's rotation in the near future.
  • Domingo Santana: Santana, the youngest player in the trade, was included as a PTBNL and viewed a high-risk prospect. He's emerged as the team's No. 11 prospect per BA and No. 13 prospect per Mayo. BA writes that he has significant raw power and an advanced opposite-field approach to pair with enough athleticism to develop into a regular right fielder if things break right. Mayo concurs with that analysis and notes that he has "an outstanding arm that fits perfectly in right field, along with his offensive profile."
  • Josh Zeid: Zeid doesn't rank among the Top 30 prospects in Houston's system per BA or the Top 20 per Mayo, but he ranked as Philadelphia's 23rd prospect at the time of the trade. BA credited Zeid with the best slider in Philly's farm system following the 2010 season, noting that his fastball can reach 97 mph when he's serving in a relief role. That's exactly what he's done since coming to Houston, but he posted an ugly 5.59 ERA in 56 1/3 innings at Double-A last season. However, his 10.5 K/9, 3.2 BB/9 and strong 3.52 FIP suggest that there are better times ahead for the 26-year-old. He's pitching at Triple-A Oklahoma City to open this season.

The Phillies gave up quite a bit of talent in order to land Pence, and the Astros are clearly better off for it. Twenty percent of the players in Houston's Top 15 prospects were acquired via this trade, and while there are question marks surrounding some of them, Singleton's future looks more certain. Philadelphia, meanwhile, received a boost to their lineup that helped cement a division championship. GM Ruben Amaro Jr. was able to flip Pence one year later to recoup some of the prospect value that he gave up in order to land Pence.

The Phillies got precisely what they were hoping for in Pence, but the Astros appear to be better positioned for the long-haul as a result. Scenarios like this are often the case when dealing prospects for short-term help at the Major League level. Had the Phillies won a World Series title in 2011, there wouldn't be much second-guessing the trade. As it stands, Houston picked up enough future upside that they could eventually make Philadelphia fans regret the deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Hunter Pence Wants Long Term Deal With Giants

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence says that his preference is to sign a long term contract with the club rather than test free agency, according to Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (on Twitter).  Pence will be able to test the open market after the 2013 season.

The Beverly Hills Sports Council client avoided arbitration with San Francisco this winter and is earning $13.8MM in his walk year.  As MLBTR's Extension Tracker shows, GM Brian Sabean has already worked out a pair of extensions this winter by agreeing to deals with Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla.

Pence is No. 10 on Tim Dierkes' list of 2014 free agents, making him the third-highest ranked outfielder in the group behind Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury.



NL Notes: Lohse, Cardinals, Mets

Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio predicts Kyle Lohse will sign with either the Brewers or Rangers as one of five moves which will happen this spring (Insider subscription required). Bowden also sees extensions for Adam Wainwright and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Here's the other Senior Circuit news and notes from the first Sunday of Spring Training:


Giants, Pence Avoid Arbitration

The Giants avoided arbitration with Hunter Pence, agreeing to a one-year, $13.8MM contract for 2013, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). Beverly Hills Sports Council represents the right fielder.

In his work for MLBTR, Matt Swartz projected Pence would earn precisely $13.8MM in his final year of arbitration eligibility. Pence, a super two player, will hit free agency following the 2013 season. Pence's $13.8MM salary establishes a new high for arb eligible players this offseason, surpassing Matt Garza's $10.25MM salary.

The Giants have five remaining arb eligible players, as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows. Joaquin AriasGregor BlancoClay HensleyBuster Posey and Sergio Romo are San Francisco's other eligible players.


Arbitration Notes: Samardzija, Pence

Teams and players must exchange arbitration submissions on Friday, so as the end of the week approaches we can expect a number of early deals. The exchange date itself typically features many agreements for stars and role players alike. MLBTR will cover everything with updated posts and with our Arbitration Tracker

Here are some notes on arb eligible players from around MLB…

  • The Cubs and Jeff Samardzija have decided to work on a one-year deal for now, Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com reports. The sides had brief conversations about a long-term deal, Levine notes. Samardzija, who turns 28 in one week, will go to arbitration for the first time following a breakout season. Even on a one-year deal he projects to earn $2.9MM.
  • The Giants are expected to work out a one-year deal with Hunter Pence via the arbitration process, and though the right fielder would prefer a long-term commitment, he told Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com that he's happy to go one year at a time. “My goal in 2013 is to play every game with everything I’ve got and win that day," Pence said. Here's a complete look at San Francisco's class of arb eligible players.

Arbitration Breakdown: Hunter Pence

Over the next few weeks, I will be discussing some of the higher profile upcoming arbitration cases. I will rely partly on my arbitration model developed exclusively for MLB Trade Rumors (read more about it here), but will also break out some interesting comparables and determine where the model might be wrong.

Hunter Pence enters his fourth year of arbitration with a good chance of getting a fourth consecutive raise of between $3MM and $4MM. My model projects him to add a $3.4MM raise, giving him a $13.8MM salary for 2013. Pence had a pretty disappointing performance in 2012, but his career-high 104 RBI should be enough to get him a good boost. After hitting .314 in 2011, Pence only hit .253 in 2012. However, he did hit 24 home runs and play in all but two games on his way to 688 plate appearances.

Very few players have entered arbitration four different times without signing multiyear deals or being non-tendered, so players who do so are often compared with each other and with players who are eligibile for only the third time. As it happens, this makes Pence a pretty good comparison for himself last year since he had 24 home runs and 104 RBI after having 22 home runs and 97 RBI. Of course, his batting average this season was worse, and Pence will probably not be compared to himself last year anyway.

Among players who did enter arbitration for the fourth time, Mike Napoli in 2012 could be a good comparable, but his .320 batting average and 30 home runs make him a poor match, even though he only had 476 plate appearances and just 75 RBI. He did get a $3.6MM raise, however. No other fourth-time eligible players who have signed one-year deals in recent years have even hit 20 home runs, so we will need to look beyond that to find good comparables for Pence.

Since Pence’s most compelling case for a large raise comes from breaking the 100 RBI barrier, it is useful to look at the list of players who were eligible for at least their third year of arbitration and who had 100 RBI, and also restrict to players who signed one-year deals. There are only two such players: Mark Teixeira, who hit .306 and had 30 home runs and 105 RBI with 575 plate appearances in 2008 (he got a $2.7MM raise), and Jorge Cantu, who hit .289 with 16 home runs and 100 RBIs in 643 plate appearances, and only got a $2.5MM raise. Since Teixeira’s raise is five years old and Cantu had far fewer home runs, neither of them makes for great cases.

If we try to look for players with players with similar home run totals, say at least 20 but no more than 30, while also restricting ourselves to players with batting averages below .270 and with at least 80 RBI, only two players come up (among those who got one-year deals): B.J. Upton in 2012 and Austin Kearns in 2007. Upton hit .243 with 23 home runs and 81 RBI, though he stole 36 bases. Kearns hit .264 with 24 home runs and 86 RBI, and got just a $1.65MM raise, but since that case is so old, I doubt his name would come up in Pence’s case. Since both Upton and Kearns had less appealing statistics to arbitration panels (RBI matter far more), Pence is likely to easily top them.

There are some other players with 20-29 home runs who either did not get 80 RBI or who hit better than .270. Xavier Nady in 2009 is one such player. He got a $3.2MM raise after hitting .305 with 25 home runs and 97 RBI, though he had only 607 plate appearances. Adam Jones is another similar player. He hit .280 in 2011 with 25 home runs, but just 83 RBI. He got a $2.9MM raise, and Pence should be able to top that despite the lower batting average, since RBI matter so much to panels. One other such player with medium-high home runs is Luke Scott, who got a $2.35MM raise in 2011, after hitting .284 with 27 home runs, but just 72 RBI in 517 plate appearances. Pence should top all three of these guys.

If we expanded to include players who hit a little more than 30 home runs but still had averages below .270 and at least 80 RBI, we would be able to include Prince Fielder, who got a $4MM raise in 2011. Fielder hit .261 with 32 home runs, but just 83 RBI amidst 714 plate appearances. He could be a useful comparison for Pence due to his large raise.

If we really let the RBI restrictions go, we might include Kelly Johnson in 2011. This would also involve ignoring position, but at this point, without ideal comparables, he might be in play. He hit .284 with 26 home runs in 671 plate appearances, but only got 71 RBI. He still got a $3.5MM raise, though. Just falling short of nearly all of the above criteria was Casey Blake in 2008 — he hit .270 with 18 home runs and 78 RBI, and got a $2.35MM raise.

Clearly almost no one is a good match for Pence this year. The plausible names we have suggested above include Mike Napoli, Mark Teixeira, Jorge Cantu, B.J. Upton, Xavier Nady, Adam Jones, Luke Scott, Prince Fielder, Kelly Johnson, and Casey Blake. None of them are very good comparables. Almost all of them are a little useful. Pence had more plate appearances than nine of the ten and more RBI than nine of the ten as well. He only higher a higher average than one of these ten, though, and only had more home runs than four of the ten. Three of these ten players had more steals than Pence, five had fewer steals, and two had the same number.

These ten hitters got raises ranging between $2.175MM and $4MM. The median raise in the group was $3.05MM. Since these deals tend to be around two to three years old on average and Pence had more plate appearances and RBI (the more important arbitration stats, along with home runs) than most of these guys, my best guess is that Pence should be in the same range but a little higher. That makes the $3.4MM projected raise seem pretty reasonable to me.

Pence is the kind of player for whom the arbitration model I have developed is the most useful. It can struggle to identify salaries of players who are anomalously good or who have had odd career trajectories, but for a player who is far better than his peers in some statistics and far worse than his peers in other areas, the model can split the difference and come up with a reasonable projection. I think Pence is highly likely to be close to the $13.8MM salary the model projects for him.


Giants Rumors: Posey, Pence, Casilla, Wilson

Here's the latest on the World Champion San Francisco Giants…

  • "We are open to the idea," said GM Brian Sabean when asked about a long-term contract extension for Buster Posey, though he said they were "not necessarily" open to the idea with Hunter Pence. John Shea of The San Francisco Chronicle and Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com passed along the quotes (Twitter links).
  • The Giants have had conceptual talks about a multiyear deal with reliever Santiago Casilla, reports Baggarly (on Twitter). The team is not active in any trade discussions, Sabean confirmed.
  • Brian Wilson is unlikely to re-sign with the Giants if and when he gets non-tendered, hears Hank Schulman of The San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter).

Bay Area Notes: Athletics, Pence, Giants

Congrats to Athletics GM Billy Beane, who was named the Executive of the Year by the Sporting News following his team's surprising run to the AL West title. Here's the latest out of the Bay Area…

  • "We're not going to do that," said Beane to MLB.com's Lyle Spencer when asked if the Athletics will trade one of their starting pitchers for a shortstop. "In years we've been successful, it's because we've had good young pitchers."
  • Giants GM Brian Sabean confirmed to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that the team will tender a contract to Hunter Pence prior to the November 30th deadline. With a projected salary of $13.8MM, Pence will be this winter's most expensive arbitration case.
  • Sabean also told Crasnick that the Giants are "actively working" to re-sign Angel Pagan, Jeremy Affeldt, and Marco Scutaro. He said he's "optimistic" about all three but declined to go into detail about the talks.

Quick Hits: Dickey, White Sox, Pence

MLB executives are fascinated by many of the same questions that preoccupy fans, so ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick checked in with a variety of baseball officials to get their thoughts on some offseason issues. The execs prefer Michael Bourn to B.J. Upton and they expect Zack Greinke to re-sign with the Angels. Here are today's links…

  • R.A. Dickey could draw interest from ten or more teams if the Mets make him available in trades this offseason, rival executives tell Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.
  • White Sox GM Rick Hahn expects to hear from many teams interested in acquiring some of Chicago’s starting pitching depth, Dan Hayes of CSNChicago.com reports. “We will absolutely listen on any ideas and trades will be one of the avenues we pursue to potentially fill some of our holes,” Hahn said. Gavin Floyd could be among the pitchers drawing trade interest this year, Hayes writes.
  • The Giants aren’t going to non-tender Hunter Pence, even though he’ll cost $13-14MM as an arbitration eligible player, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). MLBTR projects a $13.8MM salary for Pence in 2013.
  • Tim Britton of the Providence Journal analyzes the first base market to determine some possible fits for the Red Sox.
  • Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com suggests it wouldn't make sense for the Rangers to offer Josh Hamilton more than three guaranteed years with a vesting option for a fourth year. It doesn't sound as though that'll be enough to sign Hamilton, despite the questions surrounding his ability to stay healthy.