Trade Deadline Reactions — July 29th

After a slow day on Thursday and most of the day Friday, things picked up Friday evening with increased talk of Hunter Pence being on the move.  Thursday saw the Phillies aggressively court the Astros for the outfielder reportedly offering their top two prospects in Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart, but the Astros rejected it.

Phillies’ GM Ruben Amaro Jr. continued to work the wires and eventually got his man nabbing Pence and $1-million for Singleton, Cosart, a right-hander named Josh Zeid and a player to be named later.

The deal does come as a bit of a surprise considering the Astros are currently in the middle of an ownership transfer and Pence is definitely the face of the franchise (mind you, the face of the worst team in baseball), not to mention controllable until 2013.

This deal makes sense for both sides; the Phils were in need of a right-handed bat as the Phillies sit 12th in the NL with a .296 wOBA against lefties and tied for 12th in wRC+ at a measly 81.  Pence, meanwhile has a .341 wOBA and a 117 wRC+ against lefties.

The Astros pull the trigger on the deal at precisely the right moment, nabbing an impressive haul for a player probably at the peak of his value.  Pence is enjoying a career-season at age 28 hitting .309/.356/.472 with 11 homers and a .365 wOBA, but also has an unsustainable .370 BABIP and a career-high strikeout rate.

They parlayed their best player for two very high-ceiling if risky prospects in Singleton and Cosart.

Singleton is just 19 and is ranked #24 on Keith Law’s mid-season top 50 prospects, while being ranked #41 by Baseball America.  Here’s what the latter had to say about him before the season:

“Singleton has uncanny balance and rhythm at the plate, as well as solid pitch recognition.  His swing is simple and compact, and the strength of his hands, wrists and forearms gives him easy plus raw power”

He’s a classic high ceiling Phillies draft pick who was taken out of high school in the eighth round of the 2009 draft.  Thought to be unsignable and headed to college, the Phils were able to do so, something they do very well.

In order to give him a shot at cracking the Major League team with Ryan Howard signed through 2016, Singleton, a first baseman by trade was moved to leftfield this year and struggled defensively.  An ankle injury also slowed his production at the plate early in the year in High-A Clearwater, but Ben Badler tweeted earlier that since being moved back to 1B, Singleton has hit .301/.405/.469 in 237 plate appearances with seven home runs.

Cosart, 21, was ranked #4 in the Phillies system by Baseball America at the beginning of the year and was ranked 43rd overall by them in their mid-season top 50 prospects, while Keith Law ranked him 17th in his mid-season rankings.  Cosart was also playing at the Phils’ High-A affiliate in Clearwater where he posted a 6.58/3.58/0.58 pitcher slash line with a 4.00 FIP.  All of those numbers are significantly worse than his 2009 and 2010 numbers, but is coming off an elbow injury.  Like Singleton, Cosart was a late-round high school pick deemed to be unsignable, but signed just ahead of the deadline in 2008 for $550,000.

Baseball America had this to say about him at the beginning of the season:

“Cosart is tall and lean, and scouts regard his arm as one of the most electric in the minor leagues.  His fastball sits 94-98 mph, usually at the top end of that range, with good life.  His 77-79 mph curveball is a solid-average pitch, while is low-80’s changeup is a work in progress.  His command is advanced for his age and lively stuff.  The biggest concern with Cosart is his health…His maturity and work ethic also have been called into question.”

The third player involved in the deal is right-hander Josh Zeid, 24, who was ranked #23 in the Phils organization by Baseball America earlier this year and is likely going to be a reliever if he ever makes the Majors.  Once again, from Baseball America:

“…his fastball sits 92-94 mph when starting and a few ticks higher in relief.  He touched 97 on the final pitch of a four-inning, no-hit save in the [2010] South Atlantic League championship game.  He also throws an above-average slider and a solid changeup.  Zeid works downhill and throws strikes, though he’ll occasionally drop his arm angle and leave the ball up in the zone.  Scouts note his intelligence and competitive makeup.”

The Astros also sent $1-million cash to cover part of Pence’s remaining salary, which keeps the Phillies below the luxury tax threshold for 2011, saving them a ton more money.

Similar to the Beltran deal, I believe this one does help the Phillies in the short term, but whether or not Pence can sustain his current level remains in question.  On the other side, the Astros make a deal that could help rebuild their terrible farm system while trading away a player at his peak level from a team embarking on a rebuild.  You could argue that the Astros got much more in this deal in terms of high ceiling talent from the Phillies than they did a year ago in the Roy Oswalt trade.

I think we may look back on this trade and see that the Astros (for once) came out on top.

The Mariners also made a pair of moves today, trading outfielder Ryan Langerhans to Arizona for cash to make room for former Diamondback Wily Mo Pena, while also designating DH Jack Cust for assignment to make room on the 25-man roster for Erik Bedard.

Cust, who was signed in the offseason by Seattle for $2.5-million after being non-tendered by the A’s in the offseason, has fallen off a cliff this season slugging just .329 with three home runs in 270 plate appearances.

More moves could be on the way tomorrow with names like Hiroki Kuroda, B.J. Upton and many more still on the market.  Mosey on back to these parts for analysis shortly after any trade breaks.

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