You may have missed this over the weekend: Hunter Pence – the guy who would’ve been under contract this year with the Phillies but who instead was replaced in the third outfield spot by Delmon Young and Laynce Nix – received a five-year, $90 million contract extension with the Giants which will take him right on through to age 35.
On the surface, this sounds like exactly the sort of thing Ruben Amaro would’ve done – extended an over-30 all-star for two years too long and $28 million too much – but Pence had probably the best year of his career this year at age 30 and his extension is about the going rate for right fielders of his caliber.
Pence’s .282/.339/.484 line this year looks a lot like his career performance (.285/.339/.475), but looking at Baseball-Reference’s neutralized batting statistics, that line translates to .302/.360/.522 in a neutral environment. In raw numbers, Pence has hit for more power that in any other season in his career, setting a career high in home runs (27), posting his second-highest doubles total (35), and needing just two total bases on Sunday to match his career high in that category, set in that BABIP-assisted 2011 campaign. He has also set a career high in stolen bases, stealing 22 bags at a career-high 88 percent success rate.
If Pence can continue to supplement his established value by adding bases with power and speed, however, he’ll earn his keep over the course of his new contract. That contract, incidentally, is comparable to the $85 million, five-year deal the Dodgers gave rightfielder Andre Ethier, who has averaged 20 homers and 60 walks over the last six seasons, last year, a deal which also includes a $17.5 million vesting option for Ethier’s age-36 campaign absent from Pence’s deal. Pence’s contract looks more likely to pay off and has, in combination with Ethier’s contract, set the market in such a way that other teams are unlikely to secure comparable players for less.
Not that it would’ve mattered in making the grab bag of losers that was the 2013 Phillies resemble anything close to a real baseball team… but just for fun, let’s see how Pence’s 2013 stats would’ve stacked up if Ruben Amaro hadn’t traded him for no apparent reason last year: His 27 home runs would’ve been tied with Dom Brown for the team lead. His 99 RBIs would’ve led the team by a wide margin. His 35 doubles would’ve been second to Jimmy Rollins. His 22 stolen bases would’ve been tied for the team lead with Ben Revere and Jimmy Rollins. And his .822 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) would’ve been just one tick behind Chase Utley’s .823. His 178 hits would’ve led the team by a wide margin. And his 52 walks would’ve been second to Jimmy Rollins’ 59.
Instead, Delmon Young and Laynce Nix almost made it through a full season and the Phillies now have two subpar prospects.