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Jonathan Singleton Rumors
Eyebrows were raised recently when the Astros agreed to an extension with first base prospect Jon Singleton that was reported simultaneously with his first promotion to the big leagues. Extensions have broken new ground in different ways of late, and this deal represented a heretofore unseen foray into long-term guarantees for young players who are completely untested at the MLB level. Let’s take a look …
Framing the Contract
The deal pays Singleton $1.5MM for this season and $2MM annually from 2015 to 2018. It also includes three club option years over 2019-2021, progressing as follows: $2.5MM ($500K buyout), $5MM ($250K buyout), $13MM ($250K buyout). Singleton is assured of earning $10MM for the next five years, would earn up to $30.5MM in base salary if the options are exercised, and could max out the deal with an additional $5MM in incentives.
Since Singleton had zero days of MLB service at the point the contract was agreed upon and was highly unlikely to reach Super Two status, the standard means of describing the contract would be as follows: it pays him an above-minimum MLB salary for his partial first season, guarantees his three pre-arbitration and first arb-eligible campaign, and gives the club options over his final two years of arbitration and first year of free agent eligibility.
But the notion that the deal gives the Astros control over Singleton through to his first free agent year is heavily dependent on a key assumption — namely, that Singleton will stay in the big leagues over the life of the deal. In actuality, it is far from a certainty that Singleton’s play (and/or the team’s impossible-to-predict circumstances) will actually warrant his continued presence on the team’s active roster through to 2021.
Testing the Criticism
Of course, it remains obvious that Singleton has cut off a good chunk of the upside he might have realized through arbitration, and has potentially even delayed his entry to the free agent market by a season. That is the major complaint that has been logged against the deal. Defenders, meanwhile, have generally focused on Singleton’s off-field issues, noting that he may have had valid non-pecuniary motivations for signing.
It strikes me, however, that something basic is being overlooked here. Singleton — a $200K bonus signee out of high school — not only got his cash up front, but has completely avoided the downside scenario. And it is not as if the contract is completely without upside. At worst, Singleton is a bust who walks away with $10MM. At best, he is a top-rate big leaguer who earns over $35MM through his age-22 through age-29 seasons and hits the open market as an attractive commodity at the reasonably youthful age of 30. (That is, if he has not already agreed to a new extension in the meantime.)
Likewise, it has largely been overlooked that the contract is significantly front-loaded. Singleton will earn $7.5MM before reaching arbitration eligibility, which is much greater than he’d expect to bring in at the league minimum rate (this year, $500K). That certainly increases its value.
The real issue, I think, relates to that simple, timeless maxim of which Baseball Prospectus is fond of reminding us: prospects will break your heart. Singleton is every bit a prospect, as he entered the year facing questions about his maturity and ability to hit left-handed pitching. He rose to 27th on Baseball America’s top-100 list last year, only to slide to 82nd before this season. He is a first baseman who will need to hit — a lot — to keep his place in the big leagues.
His situation, in other words, is highly variable — perhaps more so than many have acknowledged. Some observers have touched on the implications of this fact. BP’s Zachary Levine tackled the Singleton extension from an economics perspective, applying marginal value concepts and game theory to the deal, explaining how Singleton’s individual value-maximization strategy may not have aligned with that of the collective (i.e., other union members). Likewise, looking at it from a labor perspective, the Economist recently noted that the Astros “acquired all of Mr. Singleton’s upside without taking on any of his downside risk.”
I am not sure I agree with the Economist’s notion that the team has not added downside; if anything, it has done just that, albeit at a manageable level ($10MM and a relatively firm commitment of a roster spot for some time.) To my thinking, the team agreed to take on some risk from Singleton in exchange for some of Singleton’s upside. He can still achieve significant earnings above his guarantee, and Houston could ultimately be enticed to pay more through the options than it would have through arbitration if Singleton has injury or performance questions but still carries enough promise that the team wishes to retain him.
But that still leaves unanswered whether, based on the reasonably possible outcomes that a player in Singleton’s situation might look forward to, the deal represents a fair exchange of risk and upside. To help answer this, I think it worthwhile to look at some actual, real-world scenarios that have played out in the recent past. (more…)
In his latest Notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports opines that the Rockies shouldn’t be buyers at this summer’s trade deadline. While the club could make a Wild Card run, he writes that the team isn’t a serious World Series contender. Rosenthal feels that the club should look to move Jhoulys Chacin — who could be a non-tender candidate this offseason — to clear room for one of its top pitching prospects (likely either Jon Gray or Eddie Butler). The bigger, and certainly bolder move posited by Rosenthal is to deal Carlos Gonzalez in order to clear room for everyday at-bats for Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon. With Kyle Parker and a number of other outfield prospects on the horizon, plus Brandon Barnes and Drew Stubbs as reserve options, the team has plenty of outfield depth. Gonzalez is also owed $53MM following this season. Rosenthal notes that ownership has never shown an inclination to move Gonzalez, however, so the Rockies likely don’t share his point of view on the future of their star outfielder.
More from his latest piece…
- Most agents with whom Rosenthal has spoken feel that Jon Singleton sold himself short by agreeing to a five-year, $10MM contract extension that could reach $30MM with three club options and $35MM if he hits enough performance bonuses. First base prospects are among the safest variety of prospects, and while some bust, Singleton will earn scarcely more than the current MLB average salary, over the life of his deal on an annual basis (assuming all options are exercised).
- Rosenthal feels that the Cardinals should look to add a big-name starting pitcher such as James Shields or David Price at the deadline (should either become available, which is no guarantee, of course). While pitching certainly isn’t a need for the Redbirds, it’s not exactly clear where they’d place another bat upon acquiring one. And, given the team’s wealth of prospects at multiple positions, they could move valuable assets that are essentially spare parts to their own organization.
- Ryan Zimmerman projects to play first base for the Nationals next season, but Rosenthal asks what might happen if Washington instead decides to keep Adam LaRoche. Doing so could push Zimmerman to left field full-time, with Bryce Harper manning center field, Jayson Werth in right field and Denard Span becoming a trade chip. Span has a $9MM club option and a “limited”future with the club given the presence of Michael Taylor (not to be confused with the former A’s prospect of the same name) at Double-A, writes Rosenthal.
TUESDAY: Passan has the year-to-year breakdown of Singleton’s contract (Twitter link). He will earn $1.5MM this season and $2MM per year from 2015-18. He notes that each of the second options have a $250K buyout as well.
MONDAY, 6:19pm: Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (via Twitter) that Singleton’s options are worth $2.5MM, $5MM and $13MM. Singleton would earn $17MM for his pre-arbitration and arb years, with the $13MM option being for his first year of free agency.
5:30pm: The future of the Houston Astros is getting brighter and brighter, and the latest ray of light will make his Major League debut tomorrow. The Astros announced today that they have not only promoted top prospect Jon Singleton, but also inked him to a historic five-year contract extension with three club options despite the fact that he’s never played a Major League inning. The Sosnick/Cobbe Sports client reportedly receives a $10MM guarantee, and his contract can max out at $35MM if all of the options are exercised and he reaches various performance bonuses.
Singleton will reportedly earn $9.5MM in salary over the five guaranteed years, plus a $500K buyout if the Astros decline their first option. The total value of all three option years is $20MM, with an extra $5MM available in bonuses and awards.
The extension sets a new precedent for players who don’t have any Major League service time. Singleton was already under team control through at least the 2020 season, though now the Astros have cost certainty over the slugging first baseman through all of his pre-arbitration and arbitration-eligible seasons, not to mention his first free agent season should Houston use all of its team options. The 22-year-old Singleton is now locked up through his age-29 season.
The Astros aggressively pursued extensions with several of their young players over the last few months, pursuing deals with George Springer, Robbie Grossman and Matt Dominguez that would’ve covered all most or all of their arb and pre-arb years and given the team more options years, to boot. Springer’s proposed extension would have also locked him up prior to his ever playing a day in the bigs, the same as Singleton’s contract.
Originally an eighth-round pick of the Phillies in the 2009 draft, Singleton came to the Houston organization as part of the trade package for Hunter Pence in 2011. The left-handed hitting first baseman has been on a tear at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season (hitting .267/.397/.544 and hitting 14 homers over 239 plate appearances), rebounding from a tough 2013 campaign that saw him struggle at Triple-A and serve a 50-game suspension for marijuana use.
Despite his issues last season, Singleton was still ranked among the game’s top prospects in preseason rankings by MLB.com (42nd overall), ESPN’s Keith Law (78th) and Baseball America (82nd). The 2014 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked Singleton as the seventh-best prospect in Houston’s system and described him as having “middle-of-the-order potential” and “plus raw power,” whle also praising his bat speed and ability to draw walks. The BA Handbook questioned his consistency against left-handed pitching, though Singleton showed improvement by posting a .919 OPS in 77 PA against southpaws this season at Triple-A.
Photo courtesy of Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports
The Astros have told slugging first baseman Jon Singleton that he will be promoted to the Major Leagues for tomorrow’s game, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle reports (via Twitter). MLB Daily Dish’s Chris Cotillo tweeted earlier today that “all indications” were that Singleton would be promoted as early as this week.
Singleton, universally ranked as a Top 100 prospect, has enjoyed a monster season thus far for Triple-A Oklahoma City, hitting .267/.397/.544 with 14 homers through his first 54 games. While service time considerations are often a factor in the timing of promotions — and likely were part of the reason that Singleton remained in Triple-A as long as he did — the Astros won’t be fretting over the amount of team control or the price to retain him through his arbitration years; Houston has reportedly agreed to a five-year, $10MM extension with Singleton that contains three club options, allowing the deal top out at $35MM.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
In July 1963, Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn each pitched all 16 innings of an extra-inning game between the Giants and Braves. They combined to throw over 400 pitches. David Laurila of Fangraphs uses that game to begin discussions of pitch counts with today’s players. “It’s amazing what they did,” says Tigers star Max Scherzer. “Many guys in the past were able to consistently throw 150-160, and they did it in four-man rotations. That seems preposterous in today’s game.” Nonetheless, Scherzer does think that he could condition himself to throw 200 pitches per game, although he admits he would have to throw with less exertion than he does now. R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays says he could throw 200 pitches in a game “fairly easily,” although that’s because he relies on the knuckleball. Dickey adds that he threw 183 pitches in a game for the University of Tennessee in his pre-knuckleball days. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Relievers Dellin Betances and Adam Warren have both pitched brilliantly this season, and they’re both cost-controlled — Betances won’t be eligible for arbitration until after the 2016 season, and Warren won’t be eligible until after 2015. But Daniel Barbarisi of the Wall Street Journal asks if the Yankees might be able to get even more value out of the pair by using them as starters. Both have started at the Triple-A level, and the Yankees could certainly use more reliable starting pitching. The problem is that the bullpen has helped both pitchers dominate — relieving allowed Betances to simplify his approach, and Warren to throw harder. The Yankees seem to feel that Warren might still be a candidate to start at some point, though Betances won’t be.
- Astros first baseman Marc Krauss is trying not to worry about the impending arrival of top prospect Jonathan Singleton, writes the Houston Chronicle’s Evan Drellich. “You try not to think about it,” says Krauss. “He’s going to get his turn. I just try to go out and play as hard as I can and hopefully impress the team so that I can find a role when he does come up. … There’s always other teams out there considering, if I’m playing well enough, I can help it out.” Singleton, who’s hitting .270/.393/.540 for Triple-A Oklahoma City, is a likely candidate for promotion sometime this summer. Krauss, who is sharing first base with Jesus Guzman, has hit just .177/.282/.302 in 110 plate appearances so far this season.
Due to his back injury, Marco Scutaro still isn't playing in extended spring training games, but it's unlikely the Giants will make a trade to replace him anytime soon, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle writes. This week's Ike Davis trade aside, deals involving valuable players generally aren't made in April, and the Giants would likely have to pay heavily to acquire a talented infielder. Later this summer, the Giants still might not make second base their top priority, Schulman suggests — they may instead focus on their bench. Here are more notes from the West divisions.
- The Astros are excited about first baseman Jonathan Singleton's performance at Triple-A Oklahoma City, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. The Astros recently promoted top prospect George Springer, and Singleton, who is hitting .343/.449/.776 so far, might not be far behind. "When we sent him down at Spring Training, we told him he was going to let us know when he was ready to come up here by his performance, and so far he's doing an outstanding job," says assistant GM David Stearns. "We'd like to give him more time to continue to work on the aspects of his game that we identified with him that needed some improvement. So far he's addressing them."
- Former Astros outfielder J.D. Martinez is making a strong case to make it back to the big leagues with the Tigers, MLive.com's James Schmehl writes. Martinez is hitting .308/.366/.846 with a remarkable ten home runs in 71 plate appearances for Triple-A Toledo, and the Tigers are currently playing with only three bench players. The Astros somewhat surprisingly released Martinez last month, even though he wasn't on their 40-man roster at the time and was a 26-year-old with 975 plate appearances of big-league experience. Martinez's salary at Triple-A was apparently a factor in the Astros not being able to find another organization for him.
The Astros have issued a press release announcing that they have claimed left-hander Raul Valdes off waivers from the Phillies and declined their 2014 club option for right-hander Philip Humber. Humber is one of four players that has been outrighted off the team's 40-man roster; the others are infielder Brandon Laird and catchers Cody Clark and Matt Pagnozzi. Perhaps more noteworthy is the fact that top prospect Jonathan Singleton has been added to the team's 40-man roster to fill one of the new vacancies.
Valdes, 35, posted an alarming 7.46 ERA in 35 innings for the Phillies this season, but his peripheral numbers suggest that he was far better than that unsightly number. Valdes averaged 9.5 strikeouts and 2.1 walks per nine innings, leading advanced metrics like FIP (4.39), xFIP (3.74) and SIERA (3.10) to project better days on the horizon. He also held opposing lefties to a .229/.275/.375 line.
Houston held a $3MM option on Humber, but declining it proved to be an easy decision. The former No. 3 overall pick turned in a 7.90 ERA with 5.9 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9 in 54 2/3 innings for the Astros this season after signing for just $800K last offseason. Humber was designated for assignment in May and accepted an outright assignment to Triple-A Oklahoma City, where posted a 4.68 ERA with 6.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9.
Laird hit .169/.224/.423 with five homers in 76 plate appearances for the Astros in 2013. Pagnozzi, who was acquired from the Braves at the beginning of September, went 3-for-21 in 22 plate appearances for the Astros in the season's final month. The 32-year-old Clark, a career minor leaguer, reached the Majors at last in 2013 and recorded his first big league hit with the Astros. Clark went 4-for-38 with Houston and hit .212/.250/.265 in 46 minor league contests this season.
If you're a moderate to hardcore baseball fan, you've probably heard of the term "Super Two" when top prospects and their imminent big league promotions are being discussed. Basically, it's an important business aspect of baseball that can cause your favorite MLB-ready prospect to spend a little extra time in the minors. For a refresher on the subject, check out Tim Dierkes' article from April and Ben Nicholson-Smith's post from February.
Now that you're up to date and understand why some players have been recently called up to the Majors, it's time to identify the next big-named prospects who could be promoted in 2013, following in the footsteps of the Rays' Wil Myers, the Mets' Zack Wheeler, and the Mariners' Mike Zunino.
Xander Bogaerts, SS, Red Sox: Bogaerts, 20, didn't let his age stop him from dominating Double-A ball. One of the youngest players in the Eastern League, the shortstop hit more than .300 with strong on-base skills and power. The Aruba native earned himself a trip to Triple-A after less than half a season. A strong start to 2013 earned fellow shortstop prospect (and potential roadblock) Jose Iglesias a 25-man roster spot as the backup to oft-injured veteran Stephen Drew, but Bogaerts has a much higher ceiling. Iglesias is much more likely to end up as trade bait thanks to his high-level play — should Boston need to shore up its roster for a run at the playoffs. Drew is a free agent at the end of the year, and the Red Sox may want to give Bogaerts a chance to get his feet wet in the Majors by the end of the year to gauge if he's truly ready to assume the full-time gig in 2014.
Nick Castellanos, 3B/OF, Tigers: Castellanos had a modest start to the 2013 season, but he's seen his offensive numbers improve each month with his OPS rising from .755 to .814 to 1.025. Also working in his favor for a call-up is the fact that he can offer competent defensive assistance at both third base and in the corner outfield. Miguel Cabrera isn't going to be bumped from his starting gig at the hot corner, but the emergence of Castellanos could allow the club to rest the veteran in the second half of the year in preparation for long playoff run. The prospect could also be a solid platoon complement to left fielder Andy Dirks, a left-handed hitter. It would also give Avisail Garcia — another rookie outfielder — a chance to spend more time in Triple-A. Lynn Henning of the Detroit News wrote that Castellanos could be a key player for the big league club as it tries to secure a playoff spot in 2013.
Sonny Gray, RHP, Athletics: Aside from Bartolo Colon, injuries have ensured that Oakland's starting rotation lacks pitchers with more than two years of service time. Due to the volatility of young pitchers, depth could become an issue for the first-place club in the second half of the year. Gray, a former first round draft pick, could offer some help after rebounding well from a disappointing 2012 season. The right-hander has averaged more than six innings per start in his 13 Triple-A appearances and struck out 83 batters in 82 1/3 innings of work.
Erik Johnson, RHP, White Sox: Chicago is currently deploying an inexperienced starting rotation with the likes of Hector Santiago, Jose Quintana, and Dylan Axelrod. Johnson, a former second round draft pick, has dominated pro ball and his time at Double-A in 2013 has been no different. He currently has a 2.24 ERA with 74 strikeouts and just 21 walks in 84 2/3 innings of work. Johnson, 23, has a frame that suggests he should develop into an innings-eater and his pitching acumen could eventually help him develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter for the Sox. The California native could offer some assistance to the big league club in the second half of the season, and he has the highest ceiling of any starter in the Sox system at either Double-A or Triple-A. Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune recently penned an article after speaking with Johnson, who said he's just taking it one day at a time and not worrying about a promotion to The Show.
Danny Salazar, RHP, Indians: After spending big in the offseason, Cleveland finds itself in a playoff hunt. With a big league starting rotation that features some rather large question marks with the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Scott Kazmir, and Carlos Carrasco, Salazar could become a key player at some point during the second half of the season. While splitting the season between Double-A and Triple-A, the Dominican right-hander has struck out 80 batters in 58 innings of work. If he doesn't figure into the club's plans in the starting rotation, his power arsenal and ability to pitch multiple innings could allow him to offer some assistance in the bullpen in the latter half of the year and even the playoffs. In a piece for MLB.com, John Wagner spoke to Salazar's Triple-A manager, Chris Tremie, who talked about the things that the young pitcher does well.
Jonathan Singleton, 1B/OF, Astros: Singleton's season got off to an inauspicious start when he was suspended for 50 games after violating minor league baseball's drug policy. Since returning, the 21-year-old hitter has appeared in just 10 games, split between Single-A, Double-A and now Triple-A. Thirteen of his 20 hits have gone for extra bases, and he's walked 13 times. Singleton has experience playing both left field and first base but has exclusively played the infield in 2013. Despite that, his clearest opening for big league playing time could be in the outfield where Trevor Crowe, J.D. Martinez, and (recently demoted) Jimmy Paredes have produced less-than-impressive numbers. First basemen/designated hitters Chris Carter and Carlos Pena have also had underwhelming seasons to date (and could become trade bait) but offer much-needed power. The playoffs are out of the question for 2013, but once outfield prospect George Springer joins Singleton in Houston, the club will have a strong middle-of-the-order core to build around.
Yordano Ventura, RHP, Royals: Talented but undersized pitching prospects are slowly shedding the stigma that they're destined for future bullpen work at the big league level. Like Toronto's Marcus Stroman, the slender Ventura doesn't break the six-foot mark, but his upper-90s velocity — which tickles triple digits — has intrigued prospect watchers since he came over to North America from the Dominican Republic in 2010. After opening 2013 in Double-A, a recent promotion has brought Ventura one step away from the Majors. Should injuries strike — or should the Royals tire of the inconsistent performances from Luis Mendoza or Wade Davis — the 22-year-old Dominican could receive the call. Jeffrey Flanagan of Fox Sports Kansas City recently spoke to Royals Assistant General Manager J.J. Picollo who said the organization is looking to have Ventura become more efficient and keep his pitch counts down.
Full Story | Comments | Categories: Boston Red Sox | Chicago White Sox | Cleveland Indians | Danny Salazar | Detroit Tigers | Erik Johnson | Houston Astros | Jonathan Singleton | Kansas City Royals | Nick Castellanos | Oakland Athletics | Prospect Rumor Roundup | Sonny Gray | Xander Bogaerts | Yordano Ventura
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 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.
The Phillies love to make a big splash at the trade deadline and they continued the trend this year by acquiring Hunter Pence from the Astros for Jarred Cosart, Jonathan Singleton, Josh Zeid, and a player to be named later. Let's take a look at some reactions to the deal from around the baseball world:
- Up until late yesterday, the Astros were looking to get even more out of the Phillies, tweets Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Houston insisted that the Phillies had to include two more of their top ten prospects, including 2010 first-round pick Jesse Biddle.
- Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. will continue to listen to other teams up until the trade deadline on Sunday, but he's likely done trading after landing Pence, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Astros GM Ed Wade was still talking to other teams until ten minutes before he made the deal with the Phillies, tweets Bob Brookover of Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Keith Law of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) believes that the Astros took a considerable risk in dealing Pence. While they received a ton of potential long-term value, the major prospects coming over in the trade are high-risk, high-reward prospects.
- Wade's decision to trade Pence certainly isn't a popular one but it is the right move for the organization, writes Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com.
- Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle writes that it could take two years or longer to fairly judge the return that the Astros got for Pence.
- Phillies officials have questioned Cosart's maturity in the past, according to John Manuel and Matt Eddy of Baseball America. Furthermore, the right-hander's command issues led others in the organization to believe he was destined wind up in the bullpen. However, Cosart had the best pure arm in the Phillies' system.