Over the weekend, the Astros were able to avoid arbitration with Hunter Pence. Surely he wanted more than $3.5 million after the past 3 seasons where he has averaged (0.289 with 22 homers, 75 RBIs and 13 stolen bases). A classic 2nd or 3rd hitter in any lineup. By getting him signed and avoiding arbitration, they found themselves one of the best bargains in baseball. Even though he made just under $500,000 last year and this represents almost a 700% increase in salary, as an unrestricted free agent he would have been able to bring in $6 – $8 million a year easy.
When guys like Rick Ankiel can fleece the Royals for $3.25 million after the regretful season he had where he hit 0.231/11/38 in only a half season of play. Pence should have held out for more, or at least tried his hand at arbitration. Instead Pence will have another year of arbitration before he is eligible for free agency in 2012. If he continues to put up 0.280/25/80/13 for the next two seasons he may be one of the more sought after free agents following his walk season. Of course he’ll be 28 at that point and right in the middle of what should be his peak years.
At some point look for the Astros to lock up Pence, maybe as soon as the end of this season. Although he doesn’t bring the offense of a Lance Berkman, he power – speed combination always makes him a threat when ever he gets on the base paths. He already has an All Star selection and his similarity scores bring up players like Matt Kemp, Josh Hamilton, Adam Lind, and Andre Ethier. He’s not going to be a Hall of Famer, but he will have himself a solid career.
As far as his autographed cards go, they are fairly inexpensive. Oh sure some of the harder to find rookie autographs are going to cost you between $70 – $100, but for the most part you should be able to find them at a bit of a discount. The one below recently sold for $15. Most of his are running between $8 – $16, like Michael Bourne, I think he was one of the mass-produced autographs of his rookie year. Overall Pence is an absolute bargain, but the Astros should not wait too long to resign he as he will cost more, the better he does and I think this might be a break out year for him.