Trade Values: Hunter Pence

Earlier today we heard a sort of non-rumor about Hunter Pence. Jon Heyman reported the Pirates are interested in Pence, but that the Giants aren’t looking to trade him at the moment. The Giants still see themselves in contention, since they’re 5.5 games back, despite being fourth in their division and having a losing record. They also would need to be overwhelmed to deal Pence. To get an idea of what Pence is worth, let’s look at his trade value. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what an “overwhelming” deal would be for Pence.

NOTE: The purpose here isn’t to suggest the Pirates are offering this amount for these players.  The purpose is to see the value of these players, using projected values (calculated as [(WAR*$5 M) – Salary]) and prospect trade values. We use our updated values for top 100 prospects, and Victor Wang’s research on prospect values for non-top 100 prospects. Also check out our values for the prospects in the Pirates system to get an idea of what a deal would cost for the Pirates.

Hunter Pence Trade Value

Year Salary WAR FA Value Surplus Value
2013 $13,800,000 4.0 $20,200,000 $2,100,000
Hunter Pence is worth a young Grade C pitching prospect.

Hunter Pence is worth a young Grade C pitching prospect.

Finding the Value: Pence is in the final year of control, and is making $13.8 M. I set his WAR at 4.0, which might be a little high. He had a 4.4 WAR in 2011, but that was the only year in his career that he’s been above a 3.8. Also, if you average the previous three seasons, he’s a 3.0 WAR player. However, Pence has a 2.7 WAR already this year. Also, the Giants would have to be overwhelmed to deal him. I’m not sure what that means, but I figured giving him credit for this season’s results would help make up for that value. I calculated the trade on July 31st.

What He’s Worth: Because of his big salary, Pence doesn’t have a lot of surplus value. He would be owed about $4.5 M in the final two months of the year. As a 4.0 WAR player he is worth a young Grade C pitching prospect. If you take that down to a 3.0 WAR player, he’s worth $500,000, which is a Grade C prospect or an Aaron Baker for Derrek Lee type deal. There is that “overwhelm” factor to consider. The Giants might be able to get a compensation pick for Pence if they tender him an offer and he signs elsewhere. In the past a pick has been worth $2.5 M. That’s the same value as a young Grade C pitching prospect. You could argue that the guarantee of getting value is better than the chance of getting a pick and the chance of that pick becoming valuable. The Giants might not necessarily see it that way. Either way, I don’t see Pence being worth a Grade B or higher prospect.

Analysis: A lot of the value with Pence comes from his defense this year. He’s got a 10.5 UZR/150, which is making up for his lack of hitting. Offensively he has a .265/.307/.455 line. He’s hitting for power, but he’s not getting on base at a good rate. His numbers are similar to last year (although with a bit more power), so it’s not like this can be chalked up to a down year. The Pirates aren’t getting defense from Jose Tabata in right field this year, but they are getting offense in a limited sample. Travis Snider is providing defense (3.2 UZR/150 in RF), but no offense.

Pence is another situation where you’ve got a guy with name value, but not a lot of upgrade value. I don’t know if Jose Tabata will keep hitting like he is currently hitting, but right now he’s hitting better than Pence, and I don’t see Pence improving his numbers. There is the chance that Tabata won’t keep hitting like this, which means Pence would be an upgrade both offensively and defensively. That’s not saying much, as Pence isn’t really providing a lot of offense. It’s just saying that if Jose Tabata’s hitting suddenly becomes horrible, the Pirates would have someone who isn’t so horrible.

The Pirates need an offensive upgrade, and a lot of the value from Pence is based on his defense. He also carries a lot of name value, which is probably going to drive his price up beyond what he’s actually worth. I wasn’t a fan of trading for Pence last year when it would have cost Starling Marte. If the cost is a young Grade C pitcher then it wouldn’t be a bad move. I just don’t see that being possible for Pence due to his name value, and I don’t think he really stands out over any of the other names we’ve seen on the market.

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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