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July 31, 2012
Giants Counter Dodgers, Acquire Pence
A second-round pick out of an Arizona high school, Joseph earns mixed reviews from scouts, but those that are on board see him as a potential first-division starter behind the plate. His calling card is the kind of plus-plus raw power rarely seen in a catcher, but his hit tool has not fully developed to a point that allows him to fully tap into it; he holds career averages of .256/.307/.427 with a home run every 27.2 at-bats. Many of his problems revolve around a poor approach, and he has a tendency to fall in love with his power and get pull-conscious. He's made great strides defensively, particularly in his ability to control the running game, as he's shortened his release to better take advantage of plus arm strength. His receiving is still a tick below average, however, as he often stabs at balls and needs to improve his footwork. His collection of strengths and weaknesses make him a tough player to evaluate, but there's at least a big leaguer here with some star possibilities.
A fourth-round pick out of the University of Minnesota, Rosin has become a solid relief prospect since moving to the bullpen last year. He's a huge man at 6-foot-6 and 250 pounds, and he has rare plus command and control for a big pitcher. He throws a lot of strikes with a 90-94 mph fastball that plays up due to his ability to locate it and a long stride to the plate that has the pitch jumping on hitters. He mixes in a solid-average curveball and a changeup as a change of pace, but neither is plus, which reduces his projection to below that of late-inning work. The 23-year-old should start the 2013 season at Double-A and could reach the big leagues by September, although his upside is limited. —Kevin Goldstein
Acquired OF-R Hunter Pence and cash from Phillies for OF-R Nate Schierholtz, C-R Tommy Joseph, and RHP Seth Rosin. [7/31]
Timing is everything around a deadline. Heck, a deadline itself is nothing but a time-centered chokepoint. We magnify actions and their sequencing around a deadline. Brian Sabean would be the aggressor in the National League West race had his team acquired Pence on Sunday night—as a local television station alleged. Instead, the Giants grabbed Pence only after the Dodgers traded for Shane Victorino. Meaning Sabean’s move is a defensive maneuver. Whatever the motive, adding Pence should help the Giants win this season.
Pence brings his awkward batting stance and running style to San Francisco along with a .271/.336/.447 slash line. He figures to bump Gregor Blanco from the lineup, thus taking over the right field spot. While Blanco had a nice run early in the season, his recent play has warranted concern. Even had Blanco continued to hit as he had in the first half (.252/.337/.374) the Giants would be gaining a decent boost in power production. There is a tangible difference in defensive quality between the two, which mitigates part of the improvement.
The Giants have been one of the worst teams in the league at hitting right-handed pitching this season. Despite favoring southpaws, Pence is a more than capable hitter against same-handed pitching. One other angle to consider is if Pence’s production will decline from moving into a more pitcher-friendly ballpark, or if he'll benefit from the in-built counterbalance of facing weaker completion in the NL West.
One benefit brought to the table by Pence and not countless other deadline acquisitions is his contract status. The Giants will have Pence for an additional season, if they so choose. It won’t come cheaply, however, as Pence made more than $10 million this season and figures to receive a raise. San Francisco has some financial flexibility to speak of heading into this offseason. They can save $8 million by electing to buy out Aubrey Huff’s final season, and with close to $30 million in expiring deals (including Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt, Freddy Sanchez, Melky Cabrera, and Angel Pagan) the Giants have enough money to reinvest elsewhere even with Pence’s commitment.
The Giants entered the day with about a 50 percent chance at making the postseason. Los Angeles has done well over the past week to increase its odds in what is, basically, a zero-sum game. In acquiring Pence the Giants have evened the tally just a bit. Come October, no one will care which team struck first; only which team struck last—the Giants have a chance to be that team. —R.J. Anderson
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus.