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Philadelphia Phillies Are Better Off with Hunter Pence

The Philadelphia Phillies were jockeying for position as the MLB trade deadline approached a couple of weeks ago. They needed to add a piece to improve their team, but there were a couple of options to consider.

Some thought that the Phillies might add a bullpen piece. A veteran arm that could stabilize a bullpen that has been effective, but has few recognizable names in it. Mike Adams and Heath Bell were both mentioned on more than one occasion, but the Phillies also had other needs to address.

The Phillies were once one of the most prolific offenses in all of baseball. They killed you with power and speed, and got by with decent enough pitching. But that was a few years ago and this Phillies team relies more on its array of aces and amazing arms than its moonshot home runs. Even with one of the greatest pitching staffs ever assembled, the Phillies still needed to find some more offense.  It seemed the Phillies needed themselves a bat. And preferably a right-handed one capable of a long ball.

The team looked at a few options, but two seemed to get people talking more than the others. Most of the conversations boiled down to Carlos Beltran or Hunter Pence.

The San Francisco Giants (62-49), smack in the middle of taking 2 out of 3 from the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park moved on Beltran first (both wins for SF came after Beltran's acquisition).  As one of the few teams capable of matching up well with the Phillies collection of aces, and the team that eliminated Philadelphia from the NLCS last year, the defending World Champs seemed to score a huge victory by closing the deal on Carlos Beltran.  Beltran seemingly gave the Giants a middle of the lineup run producer who hits from both sides of the plate and is a real game changer.  A lot of people thought the Phillies had lost out on the better option.

The Phillies turned their attention to the man they say was their target all along: Houston's Hunter Pence.  Pence is a 28-year old outfielder with decent power and a youthful enthusiasm for baseball.  He is a .300 hitter who the Phillies believe can give Ryan Howard some protection in the lineup. After some haggling with his former boss, Ed Wade, Phillies GM Ruben Amaro was able to pry Pence from Houston with an attractive package of prospects.

Since the acquisition of the 34 year old Beltran, the Giants are 2-5 while Carlos Beltran has struggled to fit in and find his groove.  The Giants were swept by the Cincinnati Reds and lost 2 out of 3 to the Arizona Diamondbacks, briefly losing control of 1st place in their division.  Prior to yesterday's 8-1 win over Arizona, Carlos Beltran was 5-for-25 (.200) as a Giant.

The Phillies with Hunter Pence have stood in stark contrast to the Giants with Beltran.  The Phillies roll into San Francisco tonight with a 6 game winning streak on the line.  The team has not lost since Hunter Pence was added to the team, and they currently lead the NL East by 8 games.  Pence has gone 6-for-21 (.286) with 3 RBI and 3 Runs scored.  Pence has hit safely in every game as a Phillie, and has revitalized the team.   More than that, Hunter Pence has been able to protect Ryan Howard in the lineup which is something that the Phillies hadn't been able to do since Jayson Werth departed for Washington in the offseason.  Since Pence's arrival, Ryan Howard is 9-for-25 (.360) with 4 HRs and 9 RBI.  In Hunter Pence, the Phillies have also found a long-term solution to their outfield issues.  Pence is under contract for two more seasons after this one.  Beltran, on the other hand, will be a free agent at the end of this season.

The Phillies are 71-39 and hope to have better success against the Giants than they did last week and last October.  It will be an interesting side note to see how each team's newest acquisition will perform for his new team.  No matter the outcome of this series, the Phillies are banking that Hunter Pence will give them a better chance to beat the Giants when it really counts: October.


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