HOUSTON — Astros general manager Ed Wade announced late Friday night that Houston agreed to trade two-time All-Star Hunter Pence to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for four prospects, including right-hander Jarred Cosart and outfielder Jonathan Singleton, both of whom rank as Philly’s top two prospects.
Wade confirmed Friday that Houston will also receive minor league right-handed pitcher Josh Zeid and a player to be named later.
“We did a trade that’s involving Hunter Pence,” Wade said. “We’ve traded Hunter to Philadelphia for three players right now and a player to be named. The three players coming back to us immediately are first baseman/outfielder Jonathan Singleton, right-handed starting pitcher Jarred Cosart and a right-handed reliever Josh Zeid. We’re very excited about the return.”
In a corresponding roster move, the Astros purchased the contract of outfielder J.D. Martinez, the organization’s 2010 Minor League Player of the Year, from Double-A Corpus Christi.
The 23-year-old Martinez earned a 2011 Texas League All-Star selection en route to hitting .338 with 13 home runs, 72 RBI and 25 doubles while posting a .414 on-base percentage in 88 games this season under the guidance of manager Tom Lawless.
He’ll take Pence’s spot on the active roster.
A source close to the situation told joltleft.com Friday night that Martinez will fly out of Midland on Saturday to join the Astros in Milwaukee.
Martinez, a 20th-round pick by Houston in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, told joltleft.com following the Hooks’ 12-6 loss against the San Antonio Missions on Wednesday night at Whataburger Field that he was keeping an eye on a potential Pence trade.
At the time, Martinez didn’t believe the Astros would actually deal Pence, yet he had an intuition of a potential call-up if it were to happen, especially with Jose Altuve excelling with Houston since having his contract purchased from Corpus Christi on July 19.
“I’m really excited for this chance,” Martinez said via a phone interview Friday. “I was a lower-round pick in 2009 and took advantage of opportunities to prove myself at every stop in the farm system. I was able to prove myself and now I’m being rewarded.
“I can’t wait to join the Astros on the road trip in Milwaukee. [Ed] Wade told me to keep doing what I’m doing and try not to change my approach to the game. I’ve been waiting my whole life for this moment. Now that it’s here, I’m going to play so hard.”
Wade further confirmed Friday night that Cosart and Zeid will report to Corpus Christi, while Singleton has been assigned to High A Lancaster.
The 21-year-old Cosart, a product of Clear Creek High School in League City, Texas, went 9-8 with a 3.92 ERA over 108 innings in 20 games (19 starts) at High A Clearwater this season.
He was selected by Philadelphia in the 38th round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, but despite being a lower-round pick, the talented right-hander entered the 2011 campaign rated as the Phillies’ No. 4 prospect by Baseball America and now departs the organization as the top prospect, according to MLB.com’s ranking.
“He is from this area in League City, Texas,” Wade said. “He is a right-handed starting pitcher. He pitched in the Futures Game representing Philadelphia out there before the All-Star Game this year. We view him as a top of the rotation starting pitcher.”
The 19-year-old Singleton, the Phillies top position prospect, hit .282 (89-for-316) with nine home runs and 47 RBI in 92 games at Clearwater.
Singleton, a left-handed hitting first baseman and outfielder, was tagged as the Phillies’ No. 2 prospect entering 2011 by Baseball America.
He was mentioned, but not included, last season as part of the trade package that sent Astros three-time All-Star ace Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia leading up to the July 31 non-waiver deadline.
“Jonathan Singleton was playing High A at Clearwater,” Wade said. “We see him a 30 home-run guy in the big leagues. He is one of the top prospects out there and one of Philly’s top prospects.”
The 24-year-old Zeid, a 10th-round selection by Philadelphia in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, went 2-3 with a 5.65 ERA over 63 2/3 innings in 21 games (11 starts) at Double-A Reading this season.
“He is a right-handed relief pitcher out of Tulane University that is currently pitching at Double-A for Philadelphia,” Wade said. “Our scouts profile him as a back end of the bullpen player, and at the very least, a setup man that has closer potential.”
What about the player to be named?
“As far as the player to be named goes, it will be a player out of the Phillies’ farm system,” Wade said. “We have a list of names that we agreed to with Philadelphia. We will scout those players for the next 30 days to make sure we have as much information as we deem appropriate before we decide to make the move on that.”
For Pence, he departs the major league-worst Astros for a chance to join the NL East-leading Phillies, who are projected as the league favorite to win the pennant and earn a trip to the World Series.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner and eight-time All-Star Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Oswalt and standout left-hander Cole Hamels, a two-time All-Star and the 2008 World Series MVP, arguably make up the top starting rotation in Major League Baseball.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. was in the market to add an impact right-handed bat to Charlie Manuel’s lineup prior to the trade deadline and wound up targeting Pence in what an MLB source describe to joltleft.com Friday night as an “aggressive negotiation” between Philadelphia and Houston.
Amaro stepped up his negotiations with Wade and the Astros following the San Francisco Giants officially acquiring six-time All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets on Thursday in exchange for top-tier pitching prospect Zack Wheeler.
Furthermore, Amaro wanted to prevent their NL East-rival and biggest divisional threat, the Atlanta Braves, from obtaining Pence.
Houston had maintained a strong position regarding Pence, stating their need to be “blown away” in order to agree to a trade.
ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reported via Twitter Friday night that Atlanta offered a four-player package to Houston for Pence.
However, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports said the Astros sought two of the Braves’ top four pitching prospects and another solid young pitcher.
FOX Sports reported Thursday night that Houston imposed a Friday deadline with the Phillies to finalize a potential deal for Pence.
MLB sources constantly kept ESPN.com, FOX Sports, SI.com and multiple news outlets informed of the transpiring deal between the Astros and Phillies regarding Pence over the course of the day Friday, which resulted in the standout right fielder being pulled in the fifth inning of Houston’s 4-0 loss against Milwaukee after receiving official confirmation of the trade.
Pence hugged his teammates in the dugout, thus leading to immediate speculation that he was traded prior to the official announcement.
The 28-year-old Pence was hitting .309 with 11 home runs, 62 RBI and 26 doubles in 99 games for the Astros this season entering Friday.
He was selected to the 2011 NL All-Star team as a reserve outfielder.
“It’s been a long chapter,” Pence said. “I’ve bled Astros for a long time. I think everyone knows I love all the guys here. I’ve had a wonderful opportunity. The realization that this day was going to come kind of hit me yesterday. Now, it’s a reality for me.
“Ultimately, it’s going to be a win-win. I think the Astros are going to get some great players. It’s a new chapter for them and a new chapter for me. I’m on board with a team that has the best record in baseball and has unbelievable talent. It is wonderful.”
The addition of Pence strengthens the Phillies’ potent lineup featuring All-Stars Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino and gives the organization an All-Star caliber outfielder under club control as an arbitration-eligible player through 2013.
Pence has $2.3 million remaining of his contract this season and will likely command a hefty raise from 2012-13 until he’s eligible for free agency.
At this point, it’s unclear if the Phillies would be interested in exploring the possibility of locking down Pence to a long-term deal that could buy out his final arbitration years, as well as free-agent years.
“I’m really looking forward to just trying to be a part,” Pence said in reference to joining the Phillies. “I’m just going to play baseball and hopefully take whatever they ask of me and give it my heart and soul like I always do. I take pride in my hustle, grind and preparation.”
It took less than three years for Pence to climb the Astros’ minor league ladder and develop into the organization’s top prospect.
Pence, a second-round pick (64th overall) by Houston out of the University of Texas at Arlington in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, earned the respect of the Astros’ fan base with his tremendous energy, burning desire, overall approach to the game and willingness to be a difference-maker in the community upon making his major league debut on April 28, 2007.
“I was a kid when I was drafted,” Pence said. “I’ve grown a lot and have met a lot of great people. I have a lot of friendships that will never end. It’s a long road ahead. I have loved every minute of it.”
He opened the Hunter Pence Baseball Academy in Cypress, Texas, last January — a lifelong dream after being inspired growing up by Chris Gay, the owner of Cover All Bases in Arlington and an influential figure, who Pence considers a second father.
“I can’t pick a better person to want my child to be like,” Gay said. “Hunter is the genuine article. His parents and brother, Howie, and all of his friends, are great influences. I was very fortunate enough that he came through my facility and I got to know him.
“Just think about all the credit he gives me. It’s awesome. He’s still who he is. I threw my arm off and got plenty of cortisone shots in my lifetime because of throwing BP to him all night long.”
Pence is expected to arrive in Philly and join the Phillies for Saturday night’s matchup against Pittsburgh at Citizens Bank Park.
“This is bittersweet for us as an organization,” Wade said. “Everybody connected with this organization takes pride in what Hunter Pence has done for us … the way he’s come through the system and represented not only our team, but the city of Houston as admirably as he has done. Time and circumstances dictate that you have to do some tough things sometimes.
“This certainly rates among them. We have got to continue to build depth in our farm system and hopefully put that core nucleus together at some point that brings us long-standing success.”
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