One year ago today, on a Saturday evening in Philadelphia, Hunter Pence made his debut for the Phillies, after having been acquired via trade from the Houston Astros the previous evening. His first night in red pinstripes was unremarkable, as he went 1-for-5 with an RBI in the win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
It was a trade whose necessity was argued by many (myself included), as Ruben Amaro seemed bent on getting a bat to bolster the offense, regardless of the cost and the fact that the offense didn't really need any bolstering. Despite the fact that he hit .324/.394/.560 the rest of the way for the Phillies, his presence didn't really turn the offense into a juggernaut, as the Phillies more-or-less played the same way in the final two months of the season. In the 105 games before the Pence trade, the Phillies scored 4.32 runs per game, while scoring 4.54 runs per game in the 57 games after the Pence trade.
Since the trade, Pence has played in 155 games for the Phillies, where he has a line of .289/.357/.486, with 28 homers and 94 RBIs. Not a bad effort, at all, even though he can be one of the most frustrating hitters to watch (he never met a first pitch that he didn't like), Pence has pulled his weight, even as the Phillies are in talks to trade him at this year's deadline.
But what of the players that were sent packing to Houston on that Friday evening in July? What have they been up to? Quite a bit, actually.
Jarred Cosart, a RHP who was one of the centerpieces of the trade, was recently promoted to AAA Oklahoma City. He was long considered to be one of the better pitching prospects in the Phillies organization (although he is likely a mid-rotation starter), and he has similarly been impressive – if not dominant - with the Astros. Expect him to be pitching in the big leagues in the not too distant future. Prior to this season, he was ranked as the number 50 prospect in all of baseball, according to Baseball America.
The other big piece of that trade was Jonathan Singleton, a power-hitting first baseman who began to transition to left field while in the Phillies' system, who has done nothing but hit since coming into professional ball at the age of 17. The left-handed hitter, who was ranked as the number 34 prospect by Baseball America, has an impressive line of .275/.393/.475 with 13 homers in 100 games with AA Corpus Christi in 2012. While it remains to to be seen whether or not he will convert completely to left field, the 20-year-old looks to have a bright future in the Astros organization.
The third piece of the trade was RHP Josh Zeid, a relief pitcher who was taken in the 10th round of the 2009 MLB draft. While not ranked as one of the better prospects in the game, Zeid has good K/9 numbers, if not shaky control. He is a bit too old for AA ball at age 25, so it's hard to say what will become of him.
The final piece of the trade – the player to be named later – was outfielder Domingo Santana, a raw, toolsy right-handed hitter who looks to be coming into his own. He was signed out of the Dominican Republic by the Phillies, and he made his professional debut at the age of 16 in the Gulf Coast League. He's made steady progress since then, and at age 19 (19!), is doing quite well in High A ball, where he has a nice line of .295/.356/.536, with 17 homers in 85 games. Despite his raw approach and unrefined skills, the scouts love him, and in a few years, the Houston Astros will, too.
All told, the Astros absolutely got the better end of this trade, at least in theory. They traded an expensive outfielder with two plus years left on his contract for four players, three of which are loaded with potential. But, that's what happens when you are a rebuilding franchise. You get to trade players like Hunter Pence for prospects, because that is the only hope you have.
That's not to suggest that Pence has been bad – because he hasn't – but in light of the fact that the Phillies are now looking to rebuild their farm system, it appears that this is one trade that Ruben Amaro would love to take back.