Hunter Pence, Phillies agree to one-year deal

Hunter Pence is locked and loaded for 2012. (Yong Kim/The Inquirer)

The Phillies have avoided arbitration by signing Hunter Pence to a one-year, $10.4 million contract. This deal landed right in the middle of the $9 million offered by the Phillies and the $11.8 million that Pence was asking for.

This one-year deal sets up what is projected to be a crazy offseason after the 2012 season. Pence, Cole Hamels and outfielder Shane Victorino all are going to be free agents after this season, which means the Phillies may have to pick and choose who is more important to them. I expect some sort of offer to be made to Hamels within the first few months of this season. It is almost impossible for me to see the Phillies, especially general manager Ruben Amaro, Jr., letting a left-handed ace who is just reaching his prime test the free agent market.

Next, I would expect the Phils to try to lock up Pence for the long term. He seems to enjoy playing in Philly, and his youth will help usher in a new era of baseball. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard aren’t getting any younger, and it is a necessity for Pence and, hopefully, prospect Domonic Brown to start carrying more of a load in the coming years. After those two are locked up, then you can focus on signings such as Victorino. Unfortunately, it seems as though he may not be around in Philly much longer. Sooner or later, the team is going to have to make some serious decisions. The pressure is on this year.

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