Pence was the answer, and no price seemed too high to pay for a team with a World Series-or-bust motto. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. shipped four minor-league prospects, including two of his best, to the Houston Astros and got his man.
The fact that Pence could not become a free agent until after the 2013 season made the deal seem even sweeter in this age when it is so important to have players under some kind of financial control.
To make room in right field for Pence, the Phillies sent Brown to triple-A Lehigh Valley to get more minor-league seasoning. They also pretended they had never dangled him on the trade market.
The Phillies kept winning through the remainder of the regular season, and Amaro's master plan looked bulletproof right up to the point where the St. Louis Cardinals eliminated them in the first round of the playoffs.
The lasting impression of that series was Ryan Howard's writhing in pain a few feet from home plate after the final out. We now know that was the first ominous sign of what the 2012 season would become. If you recall, however, we also saw in that series how flawed Pence could be.
With the pressure level at the highest of his career, he went 3 for 19 in the five-game series and looked lost at times in right field, especially during the two games at Busch Stadium.
It was revealing, but you never could have guessed that Pence would be gone before the 2012 trade deadline passed.
That, of course, is exactly what happened Tuesday.
After the long-anticipated trade of Shane Victorino sent the centerfielder back to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Amaro further impacted the National League West race by shipping a stunned Pence to the San Francisco Giants for outfielder Nate Schierholtz and minor-leaguers Tommy Joseph and Seth Rosin.
Amaro said he had no regrets about giving up top prospects Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart to obtain the services of Pence for one year.
"No, not at all," he said before the Phillies game against Washington.
No, not yet probably would have been a more accurate answer. We'll see whether he still feels that way once Singleton and Cosart start working in the big leagues. In fairness to Amaro, Schierholtz is a big-league player, and 10 minutes after the trade a scout texted me to say how much he liked the catcher Joseph, who threw out 48 percent (19 of 40) of the runners trying to steal against him this year at double-A Richmond.
"We did it because it was the right thing to do then," Amaro said of last year's acquisition of Pence. "We did it because we felt Hunter would be a great addition to our club for that year and additional years. For this year, it didn't work out."
Saying it didn't work out is like saying the 7th Cavalry ran into a few too many Native Americans at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Unlike George Armstrong Custer, this was not Ruben Amaro Jr.'s last stand. He has another chance to make this right, and he intends to use the roughly $15 million that would have gone to Pence next season to help do that.
In the meantime, Amaro also has asked Pence to hand the outfield baton back to Brown, who did not get nearly as much seasoning as the Phillies would have liked this year because of injuries. Still, they think he is ready.
"Just his outlook and confidence has grown," said Joe Jordan, the team's director of player development. "I think he's ready. I really do. He's going to be more comfortable and maybe feel like he belongs a little more."
Manager Charlie Manuel said Brown will get every chance to prove he belongs, and he said John Mayberry Jr. will get more of a chance, too. We're not exactly sure what Mayberry was getting those first four months of the season, but we're pretty sure he will not be the opening-day centerfielder in 2013.
Amaro said he now has the payroll flexibility to get a top-tier free agent in the offseason.
"Maybe more than one," he said.
What's fascinating is that one of the free agents the Phillies figure to pursue is centerfielder Michael Bourn, who was Pence's teammate in Houston last season before being traded to Atlanta at the deadline. The package the Braves used to get Bourn wasn't nearly as appealing as the one Amaro sent to Houston for Pence.
At that time, however, Pence was the man Amaro had to have.
And now he's gone, Brown is back, and a new cycle of life is beginning for the Phillies.
Inside the Phillies:
Inside the Phillies
Bob Brookover: For Pence, what a differ- ence a year makes. D7.
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Contact Bob Brookover at email@example.com or on Twitter @brookob.