Phillies pay heavy price for overvalued Hunter Pence

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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.

White Sox sign Ervin Santana to minors deal

Ervin Santana
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Free agent right-hander Ervin Santana picked up a minor league deal with the White Sox, according to various reports Friday. Per Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com, Santana will make $4.33 million if he manages to crack the major-league roster this spring. Any official confirmation from the team is still dependent on the results of a physical.

The veteran righty hasn’t seen any action in MLB for some time. He was laid low by prolonged discomfort in his right middle finger last spring, and underwent a capsular release/debridement procedure that kept him off the mound for all but 24 2/3 innings of his 2018 campaign with the Twins. When healthy, however, he’s been as durable and productive as they come. Santana earned his second career All-Star distinction in 2017 and pitched to a 16-8 record in 33 starts with three shutouts, a 3.28 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 7.1 SO/9, and 2.9 fWAR through 211 1/3 innings.

Barring further complications with his pitching hand, the 36-year-old should be a stabilizing force for the White Sox’ rotation in 2019 — assuming he can beat out southpaw Manny Bañuelos and right-handers Jordan Stephens and Dylan Covey for a back-end role, that is. According to FanGraphs, the club’s starters ranked worst in the league in 2018 with a collective 5.07 ERA, 5.18 FIP, and 3.1 fWAR.