Phillies acquire Hunter Pence
PHILADELPHIA -- Hunter Pence is adding his big bat to a pennant race.
Philadelphia is counting on its latest All-Star acquisition from Houston to do what Brad Lidge and Roy Oswalt did before him -- help take the team with the best record in baseball deep into the postseason.
The Phillies made its deadline splash Friday night, acquiring Pence from the Astros for a package of highly rated prospects.
"I think every competitor at the highest level wants to be in a pennant race, wants to be in a World Series," Pence said in Milwaukee, where the last-place Astros lost 4-0 to the Brewers. "I'm pretty lucky now I get to jump on board with one of the best teams, and hopefully have an opportunity to do that."
The NL East-leading Phillies got the right fielder from Houston for three minor leaguers and a player to be named, shoring up their lineup as they try to make it back to the World Series for the third time in four years.
The Astros sent the Phillies $2 million to help pay the approximately $2.2 million left on Pence's salary for the rest of the year, according to a source familiar with the transaction.
"He's a guy that I think our fans will take to very well," Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said.
Amaro is developing a knack for pulling off big deals right before baseball's non-waiver trade deadline. He acquired ace left-hander Cliff Lee in 2009 and right-hander Oswalt last year.
"Hopefully he comes in, fits in and helps us," Lee said.
Oswalt helped pitch the Phillies to the NL championship series last year. Before the 2008 season, the Phillies got Lidge from the Astros and he went 48 for 48 in save opportunities and led them to a World Series championship.
Houston general manager Ed Wade traded Pence, Oswalt and Lidge to the Phillies. Wade, of course, preceded new Hall of Famer Pat Gillick and Amaro as Philadelphia's general manager. The joke in Philly is that Wade put together a better Phillies team from Houston than he ever did when he ran the team.
Wade said the Astros had to decide if Pence was a player to build around, or if he could get enough top prospects to help build the team into a future contender.
"The goal remains the same," Wade said. "It's to get good and stay good, and in order for us to do that it may entail some short-term sacrifices here."
Bowden: Astros lose
The Astros didn't get enough for the best player on their team, as this deal has a lot of risk for them. In a deal like this it would have been better to acquire at least one major league player or at least top prospects that were closer to the major leagues. Blog
Law: Astros take huge risks
Keith Law writes that while the Astros added two high-end prospects, both come with red flags making the deal a huge risk for Houston. Philadelphia gets a reliable long-term solution in left field, but may see his salary rise dramatically very soon. Blog
The 28-year-old Pence began the day with a .309 batting average, 11 homers and 62 RBIs. His best season was last year when he hit 25 homers with 91 RBIs and batted .282. He made his major league debut with the Astros in 2007.
"I'm really looking forward to just trying to be a part. Give it my heart and soul like I always do," Pence said. "One thing I try to take pride in is hustle, grind and preparation. It's really cool to be wanted like that."
Houston nabbed two of Philadelphia's top prospects in first baseman Jonathan Singleton and right-hander Jarred Cosart. But the Phillies managed to hold onto talented outfielder Domonic Brown.
The 19-year-old Singleton was batting .282 with nine homers and 47 RBIs for Class-A Clearwater. He was selected by the Phillies in the eighth round of the 2009 draft.
The 21-year-old Cosart was 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA in 20 games, 19 starts, for Clearwater.
Rebuilding Houston also got 25-year-old righty Josh Zeid, who was 2-3 with two saves and a 5.65 ERA in 21 games, 11 starts, for Double-A Reading.
The fourth player will be named later.
Sources told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that the Astros will select the player to be named later from a list of minor leaguers currently playing in Class A. That group does not consist of top prospects, those sources said.
Until late in the day Friday, the Astros were insisting on Singleton, Cosart and two more of the Phillies' top 10 prospects, one of which was their top draft pick in 2010, right-handed pitcher Jesse Biddle. It wasn't until the Astros agreed to substitute Zeid and lower-rated minor leaguers that the deal gathered steam late Friday afternoon.
The Atlanta Braves also made a serious run at Pence, according to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick. The Braves offered Houston four prospects -- two at the upper levels of the minors and two from lower-level clubs -- and were still exchanging names with Houston in the early evening Friday.
The Astros asked for Atlanta pitching prospect Mike Minor, a source said, but it's uncertain if the Braves were willing to include Minor in their trade package.
Amaro said the Phillies were able to stay under the luxury tax. He also refused to say he was done dealing before Sunday's deadline.
"Right now, I'm very comfortable with our ballclub," he said.
Pence comes with a favorable contract situation; Philadelphia can bring him back with relative ease for each of the next two seasons. His age and contract made him more appealing to the Phillies than a slugger like Carlos Beltran, traded Thursday from the New York Mets to the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Beltran is a free agent at the end of this season.
"I don't like rentals," Amaro said. "I don't believe in those."
The Phillies have needed a righty batter with pop since Jayson Werth signed with the Washington Nationals over the winter. Manager Charlie Manuel said Pence would bat fifth Saturday against Pittsburgh and play right field.
He'll provide some protection for Ryan Howard, allowing Shane Victorino to move into second in the lineup. Chase Utley and Raul Ibanez, who join Howard as the Phillies' top home run threats, are all lefties.
"See you tomorrow Philadelphia," Pence posted on his Twitter page.
Pence wears No. 9 -- meaning he could take Brown's job and his uniform number. The Phillies have to make a roster move Saturday and Brown could be demoted to Triple-A Lehigh Valley.
Brown knows it could be same organization, new uniform by Saturday night.
"I just hope I'm here and not in Triple-A," he said. "I'm not really concerned, but I would like to be here."
Information from ESPN.com senior baseball writers Jayson Stark and Jerry Crasnick and the Associated Press was used in this report.
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