The year was 2011. In what would ultimately be a year in which the Philadelphia Phillies set a franchise record in wins, General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. would send four prospects to the Houston Astros in a trade for All-Star outfielder Hunter Pence. At the time, one would have thought, or hoped, that Pence would have been the last piece to another World Series victory for the Phillies, or at the very least, the Phillies’ right fielder for the foreseeable future.
Obviously, neither of those outcomes would come to pass.
Fast forward to 2012, and Amaro sends Pence off to the San Francisco Giants at the trade deadline for Nate Schierholtz and two prospects. Pence would then go on to play an essential part in a World Series victory for the Giants.
It’s important to note that the prospects who the Phillies shipped off to Houston were among the best if not the very best of the Phillies’ farm system: first baseman Jonathan Singleton, pitchers Jarred Cosart and Josh Zeid, and outfielder Domingo Santana, all of whom have seen playing time at the major league level with the Astros.
And the ‘haul’ the Phillies received from the Giants?
Well, Schierholtz would finish out 2012 in Philadelphia before agreeing to a deal with the Chicago Cubs. Catching prospect Tommy Joseph has consistently battled injuries at the minor league level. The jury’s still out on pitching prospect Seth Rosin, but nobody has sung his praises like they have for Singleton or Cosart.
So here we stand in 2014, with Pence’s Giants among the top teams in baseball, and the Phillies among the worst. Not only that, but the future does not exactly look bright for the Phils, as Amaro has stuck by an aging roster who cannot produce as they once could. In particular, Ryan Howard‘s play has been so detrimental that the front office is contemplating his release.
Well gee, if only the Phillies had a young first baseman with an absurd amount of potential to take Howard’s place… Ah yes, that’s right! They did! A pity that he will be an integral part of the Astros organization for years to come.
I can’t bash the trades for Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, or Roy Oswalt. I was a fan of all three of those moves and I still am. Had the Phillies triumphed in 2011, perhaps trading so many quality prospects for Pence would have been worth it. Flags fly forever, after all. And even with that heartbreaking Game 5 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals, Pence still could have been an answer in an outfield chock full of questions.
Instead, he was moved for a player who is already gone and two prospects who are not exactly tearing it up at the minor league level. And it’s not even like Pence was a bad player or a clubhouse cancer who needed to get moved. Quite the contrary really; the guy is a very good ballplayer (who seems to inadvertently throw salt in the wound and play even better against the Phillies) and was respected highly enough by his teammates in San Francisco that they looked to him as a motivational leader during their run in 2012.
It’s not often that a team loses out in two different trades involving the same player, but that is precisely where the Phillies stand. While the Giants are a contender and the Astros at least have some hope for brighter days, the Phillies are left scratching their heads, wondering what happened.
I can tell you what happened: Amaro bought Pence for fifty grand, and sold him for fifty cents.