The Phillies got their middle-of-the-order hitter Friday, picking up two-time All-Star Hunter Pence from the Astros for first baseman Jonathan Singleton, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Josh Zeid and a still undisclosed fourth player.
It’s the right-handed bat the Phillies felt they needed to slot in behind Chase Utley and Ryan Howard in the order. Pence, though, hasn’t been all that much better than Domonic Brown of late. He’s batting .200 with just two RBI in 45 at-bats since the All-Star break. Since June 1, he’s hitting .297/.344/.424 with three homers and 19 RBI in 172 at-bats.
Maybe now that he’s finished with the trade rumors, he’ll improve. The Phillies are certainly banking on it after surrendering their top two prospects. Singleton, who is just 19, was hitting .284/.387/.413 for Single-A Clearwater this season. Because of Howard’s presence, the Phillies tried him in left field earlier this year. But that didn’t take. Singleton should be a 30-homer guy down the line, and he could be an upgrade over Brett Wallace by the end of 2013.
Cosart, 21, was also at Clearwater and was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA and a 79/43 K/BB ratio in 108 innings. He lacks polish for someone regarded as a top pitching prospect, but he throws in the mid-90s and shows a plus curveball. He’s a definite candidate to flame out, but he has top-of-the-rotation potential.
Zeid isn’t so talented. The 24-year-old had a 5.65 ERA and a 56/27 K/BB ratio in 63 2/3 innings while splitting time between the rotation and the pen for Double-A Reading. If he makes it in the majors, it’ll be as a middle reliever.
Pence is the Phillies’ answer to Carlos Beltran, and the fact that he’s under control through 2013 necessated the big offer. He will give the Phillies offense a lift, and he may well make a difference as a No. 5 hitter come playoff time. Still, it’s debatable whether he was really enough of an upgrade to justify the investment. He has a 119 OPS+ since 2009, which puts him a bit below fellow corner outfielders Nick Swisher and Josh Willingham and barely above Corey Hart and Bobby Abreu. He is an above average defender and an asset on the basepaths, but he’s not truly a star and he’s about to get paid like one.
It’s been a strange season for Red Sox’ third baseman Pablo Sandoval, who lost his starting role in spring training, went 0-for-6 in three regular season appearances, and underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in May. That was the last the Red Sox were supposed to hear about Sandoval until spring 2017, when he was expected to rejoin the team after a lengthy rehab stint in Florida.
On Saturday, manager John Farrell was telling a different story. Per MLB.com’s Sam Blum, Farrell hinted that Sandoval could return to the team as soon as October, albeit in a very limited capacity.
At the time of the surgery, it was all looking at the start of next Spring Training,” Farrell said. “We’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves here, but at the same time, we compliment him for the work he’s put in, the way he’s responded to the rehab, the way he’s worked himself into better condition. We’re staying open-minded.
If the 30-year-old does return in 2016, don’t expect him to look like the three-home run hitter of the 2012 World Series. Should the Red Sox lose another player to injury, Sandoval might be called on as a backup option, but he’s unlikely to see substantial playing time under any other circumstances. Despite making two appearances at DH in the instructional league, Sandoval has not started at third base since undergoing surgery, though Farrell noted that a return to third base would be the next logical step in his recovery process.
Sandoval has yet to hit his stride within the Red Sox’ organization after hitting career-worst numbers in 2015. According to FanGraphs, his Offensive Runs Above Average (Off) plummeted to -20.2, contributing approximately two wins fewer than the average offensive player in 2015. (The Diamondbacks’ Chris Owings held the lowest Off mark in 2015, with -26.3 runs below average.) Sandoval has not appeared in a postseason race since the Giants’ championship run in 2014.
Heading into Saturday evening, the Red Sox could clinch their spot in the postseason with a win over the Rays and an Orioles’ loss.
The Rangers got a bit of a breather on Saturday after clinching the division lead during Friday night’s win. Naturally, it was also a prime opportunity for another of Adrian Beltre‘s well-documented antics, as he spent his off day directing the Rangers’ infield defense with a series of signs. Even with Carlos Beltran‘s help, no one, least of all those playing the infield, appeared to have any idea what Beltre’s gestures were intended to convey.
You can add this to the list of in-game oddities Beltre has become so well-known for over the years, running the gamut from the way he kicked a ball over the foul line to his histrionics every time someone comes close to touching his head. If nothing else, it’s a convincing audition reel for the third baseman’s future in major league coaching — a career path that, I’d imagine, would end up looking something like this: