Trade of Hunter Pence raises questions about 2013

Prospect Tommy Joseph was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Hunter Pence to the Giants. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

By all accounts, Tommy Joseph is a solid major league prospect. Whether he was solid enough to warrant the trade of Hunter Pence is debatable. What isn't debatable is that the Phillies are not better off for the 2013 season, at least not in terms of talent in right field.

Joseph, the centerpiece of the trade that sent Hunter Pence and cash to the Giants this afternoon, would not appear to factor into the big league picture for next season. Carlos Ruiz will be back, leaving no room at catcher. Besides, Joseph just turned 21 years old. He has power potential, but in his first year at Double-A he has eight home runs with a .260/.313/.391 line in 335 plate appearances. Seth Rosin, a 23-year-old who is currently at Class A, does not project onto the major league roster in 2013, either. Which reduces this deal, from the vantage point of 2013, to Hunter Pence for Nate Schierholtz and some payroll flexibility. Schierholtz is a better defender with an excellent arm, but the Phillies lose about 30 points in on base percentage and plenty of home run power, not to mention the only right-handed power bat in their lineup. 

Over the last two seasons, Schierholtz has posted a .271/.326/.429 line with 14 home runs in 558 plate appearances. By comparison, Jimmy Rollins hit .268/.338/.399 with 16 home runs in 631 plate appearances last season. 

Pence, on the other hand, hit .289/.357/.486 with 28 home runs in 676 plate appearances during his year in Philadelphia. So in right field, the Phillies take a step back for 2013. Domonic Brown, who was called up today, is not a relevant consideration, since he could have moved into left field even if Pence had remained with the team. 

The relevant factor is payroll flexibility. The Phillies likely would have had to pay Pence between $14 million and $15 million next season. Now, they can theoretically spend that money at one of their two obvious vacancies: center field and third base. The third base market is not pretty -- Kevin Youkilis and Mark Reynolds are the top two options available. Center field offers Michael Bourn, Melky Cabrera, and Shane Victorino. 

But strictly in terms of talent, the Phillies do not figure to be as good in right field in 2013 as they would have been had they held onto Pence.