The Philadelphia Phillies made two notable trades early Tuesday afternoon, sending Shane Victorino to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Ethan Martin and Josh Lindblom, and Hunter Pence to the San Francisco Giants for Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz and Seth Rosin.
Victorino helps the Dodgers primarily because of who he's replacing, as L.A.'s left fielders have hit a whopping .259/.329/.348 this season, while the replacements for Andre Ethier when he was on the DL were even worse. But Victorino isn't the player he was a year or two ago, as his bat speed has started to slow and his range in center has slipped. He could be worth an extra win to the Dodgers given how little they've gotten from left field this year.
The return for the Phillies is surprisingly good, given his down year and impending free agency. Martin is an upside play, a 2008 first-round pick who has bounced back from two disappointing years when his command and velocity weren't where they were expected to be. The right-hander is 93-97 again and flashes a plus curveball, which could be a very strong combo in a relief role; to start, he'll need to improve his fringy changeup and throw a lot more strikes, although his 12 percent walk rate this year is actually the best of his career and the 23-year-old is striking out almost a man per inning at Double-A Chattanooga. He's a good athlete who had some potential as a third baseman with power in high school.
Lindblom has an above-average fastball but no out pitch; his best weapon is an 82-85 mph slider that isn't really sharp enough to consistently get under hitters' bats, and he should probably junk his slow curveball entirely. He could end up a capable middle reliever, but his value is primarily in his low cost.
Pence is a marginal upgrade for the Giants over Gregor Blanco, adding more offense but at some cost on defense; AT&T Park also isn't the ideal spot for a hitter like Pence, whose power is above-average but not the kind of huge power that will play even in a large stadium. He'll earn somewhere around $13-14 million in 2013 through arbitration. What boggles the mind is why the Giants allowed Carlos Beltran, a better if more injury-prone player whom they gave up a top prospect for a year ago, to walk away last offseason only to have to trade for a replacement midyear. Did they not realize how lacking their offense would be?
Joseph is an offensive catcher with arm strength whose receiving, although improved from his high school days, needs work and could lead to his moving off the position or ending up a backup. Joseph has above-average raw power right now with average bat speed but good rotation with his strong upper body; his plate discipline is adequate, and his performance this year partly reflects his youth relative to his competition. (He has a .705 OPS for Double-A Richmond and turned 21 a few weeks ago.) If his receiving continues to improve, he could end up a valuable everyday catcher because of his bat, but right now it's probably worse than even money that he can do so.
Schierholtz is a platoon outfielder who's capable in either corner and can hit right-handers well enough to be part of a solution with the proper platoon partner. Rosin is a big, right-handed strikethrower who has seen his velocity spike this summer after he returned to the rotation for high Class A San Jose. His fastball is bumping 95 mph, and he could end up a back-end starter if that holds. It's a very good return for Pence, not close to what the Phillies gave up last summer, but excellent considering Pence's potential cost next year.
Trading two outfielders, even with one coming back, has to open a spot in Philly for the team to give Domonic Brown another chance in the big leagues, although his performance in Triple-A this year has been disappointing. He still has the physical ability to be at least an above-average regular, but frequent mechanical issues with his swing -- along with the team's tinkering -- and poor instincts on the field have held him back. The Phils are in a rare situation for them where they can guarantee him at-bats through the end of the season without having to worry about the standings, which is the right thing to do for him and for the team.