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.
Yadier Molina underwent surgery to repair a ligament tear in his right thumb shortly after the Cardinals were eliminated from the NLDS by the Cubs, and then he needed a followup procedure two months later.
It’s been an offseason of rest and rehab for the seven-time All-Star and eight-time Gold Glover, though he’s about ready to ramp up the intensity of workouts with the beginning of spring training approaching …
Brayan Pena was signed to a two-year, $5 million free agent contract this winter to provide more reliable depth behind the plate. He’ll be the Cardinals’ starter at catcher come Opening Day if Yadi isn’t quite ready.
Molina started a whopping 131 games behind the plate in 2015.
You’ve heard the stories by now. Jose Fernandez does not get along with Marlins management and is doubtful to sign a long-term contract with the team.
There’s still time for those relationships to be repaired — Fernandez can’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season — but we also have a monetary issue at play.
Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes Sunday that the Marlins are “under the impression” Fernandez and his representatives want $30 million per year on a long-term deal, a figure the Marlins “have no plans to meet.”
If the Marlins won’t pay, Fernandez and his reps will seek that number when the ace right-hander reaches free agency. That could be the same offseason Bryce Harper tries for $500 million.
A friend of Fernandez told Jackson that the 23-year-old native of Cuba was upset about some of the trades the Marlins made last summer and the removal of pitching coach Chuck Hernandez. You probably heard talk of Miami shopping Fernandez this winter, but the asking price was predictably sky-high.
Fernandez has been limited to 19 starts over the last two years because of Tommy John surgery and a biceps injury, but he boasts a stellar 2.40 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, and 10.5 K/9 in 289 career major league frames. He will make $2.8 million in 2016 and carries two more years of arbitration eligibility.
If he can put together a run of 30-start, 200-inning seasons, Fernandez will get that $30 million per year and probably much more.
Paul Hoynes at the Cleveland Plain Dealer has an in-depth look at how the Indians will manage their outfield during the early part of the 2016 season, in the absence of star Michael Brantley.
Brantley underwent labrum surgery on his right shoulder this past November and has not picked up a bat all winter. “In the off-season people know I love to hit,” Brantley acknowledged to Hoynes late last week. ”I hit a lot. It’s just been a change in my timetable.”
Hoynes says the projected date for Brantley’s 2016 debut is “hazy,” guessing that it might happen around late April or early May if everything continues to go smoothly. Shoulders can be tricky, for hitters and pitchers.
Rajai Davis, Abraham Almonte, and Lonnie Chisenhall figure to make up Cleveland’s primary starting outfield while Brantley is finishing his rehabilitation. Collin Cowgill and Joey Butler could also be in the mix. It’s a lacking group, tasked with replacing one of the most productive players in baseball.
Brantley, 28, has slashed .319/.382/.494 over the last two seasons, tallying 35 home runs, 90 doubles, 181 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in 293 games.
Could the talented Tribe be in for another slow start?
Shouldn’t this club be spending more money?
Zach LaVine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Aaron Gordon of the Orlando Magic put on a tremendous show in Saturday night’s NBA Slam Dunk Contest up in Toronto, Canada. The stars were out to see it at the Air Canada Centre, and Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista had one of the very best views in the house. Check out this video he posted to Instagram of LaVine’s final dunk, a between-the-legs jam from just inside the free throw line …
That is Toronto’s very own Drake going wild in the pink jacket. Gordon probably had the best individual dunk of the night, though, if we’re being really real …
Back to your regularly scheduled baseball programming. Pitchers and catchers report Friday.