When the Phillies lost Jayson Werth over the winter to the surprisingly deep pockets of the Washington Nationals, the team’s lineup was left with a pretty glaring hole.
They had a glut of lefthanded power bats but no righthander to balance them out. Even the guy taking over for Werth in rightfield, Domonic Brown, was a lefty.
To put it simply, opposing managers could bring in one pitcher to deal with all the lefthanders in a row instead of having to account for a righthander as well. That’s pretty much what has happened all season.
Enter Ruben Amaro Jr. and his latest trade-deadline splash, Hunter Pence.
Amaro’s propensity to make big things happen for this team usually centers on the pitching staff. See Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and, again, Cliff Lee.
This year the team probably could have used some help in the bullpen, but the starting rotation was set.
That righthanded bat was the issue.
So after the San Francisco Giants rented Carlos Beltran for the remainder of the season — at a very high cost — the Phillies were left with a limited field of outfielders to choose from.
Beltran was considered the top bat on the trade market this year, based solely on numbers. Going on those same numbers, Pence would have been the second-best bat available.
Anyone who has watched baseball long enough — or even just played team sports — knows that performance is not the only criterion to judge a player.
Attitude can be just as important.
In his first two games in a Phillies uniform, it is easy to see that Pence was the best addition for this team. With an ear-to-ear grin plastered on his face from the moment he stepped on the field, Pence showed how good a fit he will be for this lineup. His approach to baseball is very similar to how Chase Utley plays — always hard.
And, looking strictly at the numbers and his right righthanded bat, Pence proved his worth on Sunday when the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had lefthander Joe Beimel on the mound to pitch to Utley and Ryan Howard, chose to bring in a righty to pitch to Pence.
Pence got on base. And then that same righty served up Raul Ibanez’s second home run of the game.
Pence’s first at-bat on Saturday showcased his hard-nosed approach to the game when he sprinted to first base to make an easy out into a close call on a ball he hit onto the infield grass.
Pence was called out, and his reaction showed his displeasure with that call.
The fans could not have been happier to see that effort.
Major league scouts are saying the Giants’ acquisition of Beltran could work against the team’s chemistry because his energy level likely won’t match that of his new teammates.
Only time will tell.
What makes the Pence acquisition even more appealing? The guys Amaro structured the deal around.
The Phillies were able to keep Brown and pitcher Vance Worley, both of whom were rumored to be in various deals leading up to Sunday’s deadline.
They did surrender Jonathan Singleton, a power-hitting first-base prospect who’d have a hard time supplanting Howard. They also gave up Jarred Cosart, a solid pitching prospect but not the organization’s best according to performance this year, and Josh Zeid, a relief-pitching prospect.
The Astros also have to select a fourth prospect to finish the deal.
While four prospects for one player might seem lopsided, it’s worthwhile to look at how many of the prospects the team traded for Halladay, Lee and Oswalt are actually in the majors now. ••