Standing 16.5 games back in the National League East and 13 back in the race for the 2nd Wild Card, the Philadelphia front office has decided to sell off some of the pricier outfielders in their possession, Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino. Pence has been the 2nd best hitter in the Phillies lineup this season, batting .271/.336/.447 (109 OPS+) with 17 homers and 59 RBI and looks to be headed to San Francisco. Victorino is also headed west, but to the Giants rivals from LA. The Flyin’ Hawaiian is having a bit of a down season, hitting just .261/.324/.401 with 9 homers, 40 RBI, and 24 steals on 28 attempts. Philly looks to be getting a package of prospects for their role in improving the offenses of the top-2 NL West teams. Let’s take a look at the potential return that San Francisco and Los Angeles will be getting.
Hunter Pence to San Francisco
Pence is one of the more unorthodox major leagues due to his lack of batting gloves and his hunched over, arm-heavy swing that has brought him great success over his 6 year career. Pence is a career .290/.342/.481 (118 career OPS+) hitter who normally hits around 25 homers and 80-90 RBI a season. Pence has frequently ranked near the top of the National League in outfield assists over the course of his career, but he can sometimes take an uncomfortable route to the ball, making him a slightly above average outfielder on defense. Overall Pence is a borderline top-40 player and should fit nicely, particularly in a Giants lineup that needs more production, because they rank just 11th in the NL in runs scored per game (4.00 average).
Pence will replace Gregor Blanco in right field, which is only a small upgrade. Blanco has actually been league average this season (101 OPS+), but severely lacks power, hitting just 5 homers in 325 plate appearances. No National League team has hit fewer homers this season than San Francisco, and Pence will immediately come in and provide some sorely needed power. His 17 homers would rank 1st on the Giants, besting Buster Posey’s 13 homers on the season. Pence will probably only be worth an extra win or two, but that could make all the difference in the hotly contested National League West, where a mere .001% is the difference between SF and LA after 102 games.
Shane Victorino to Los Angeles (National)
The Flyin Hawaiian returns to the franchise that drafted him in the 6th round all the way back in 1999, and boy do the Dodgers need an offensive boost. Hanley Ramirez was acquired from the Marlins less than a week ago to improve LA’s woeful offense, which ranks 12th in runs scored per game, and 2nd to last in home runs hit. Victorino also brings his excellent speed to a lineup that has been sorely lacking in good base running options. He’s working on the 4th 30+ steal season of his 9 year career and the Dodgers could use it with Dee Gordon injured.
Victorino directly replaces the platoon of Bobby Abreu, Tony Gwynn Jr., and Juan Rivera, none of whom is performing that well. None of the 3 have even a league average OPS+, with Rivera posting the best at 96, and only Gwynn is even league average on defense. Victorino should easily be able to add a win or two to the Dodgers’ ledger by the end of the year, and compared to the Giants acquisition of Pence, Victorino is probably a slightly bigger upgrade because of the players he is going to replace. IF he can be reinvigorated by the playoff chase, even better from the Dodgers perspective.
Overall these are both moves that the Phillies needed to make. A panic trade of Cliff Lee for anything other than a premium package of prospects would be a mistake now. Victorino was due to be a free agent this off-season and was probably not going to resign, and Pence is scheduled to make $14 million next year before entering free agency in 2013. Either way the Phillies should replenish a depleted farm system, and the move allows a spot for Dominic Brown to finally get everyday playing time. Brown was once a highly touted prospect, and if he could flash some of that form again, Philadelphia won’t feel the loss of Pence.
As far as the NL West race goes, it’s just as difficult today to predict a winner as it was yesterday. I will still take San Francisco due to their deeper rotation, and slightly deeper lineup, but the Dodgers still have the best player between the two teams, in Matt Kemp. Los Angeles will only go as far as he can carry them, and a Wild Card spot isn’t out of the question for either of the two NL West competitors. The race in the National League just got more interesting…