The Pittsburgh Pirates need more pop in the outfield if they are going to make a serious run in the playoffs this fall. Alex Presley's .234 batting average and .412 slugging percentage is just not good enough for a corner outfielder on a contending team.
Since no National League contender has evolved as the clear runaway favorite, shouldn't the Bucs take a chance and acquire the necessary bat?
But where will they get the needed power? Which player can they obtain? What prospects do they have to offer in return?
Carlos Quinten, Hunter Pence and Justin Upton have been frequent sources of discussion—or is this wishful thinking among Bucs fans?
How about a reunion with Jason Bay? Certainly, the Mets would not miss him.
How about Corey Hart? The Brewers certainly are not poised to make a big push for the playoffs.
Jason Bay -- Least Likely Acquisition
While they claim that they will be buyers before the trade deadline, it is pretty clear that the New York Mets' magical first-half run is over.
The starting pitching that has carried them has been decimated with the loss of Johan Santana and Dillon Gee. I would not be surprised if the Mets do an about-face and become a seller, not buyer, very soon.
Jason Bay's serious injuries have resulted in bad production for the Mets. He is under contract until the end of 2013. There has even been speculation that his concussion problems will require him to retire.
So, would the Pirates risk taking on his contract if the Mets agreed to pay part of his salary for the remainder of this year and next? Could a change of scenery result in a turn of Bay's fortunes?
This would clearly be a risky move, but stranger things have happened and paid off.
Bay is the least likely of the five players to be acquired.
Justin Upton is another outfielder said to be on the trading block.
The Diamondbacks' right fielder averaged 24 HR and 78 RBI over 2010 and 2011. In addition, he's usually good for around 20 steals.
This combination of speed and power is unique. This year is clearly an off-year for Upton, as he only has eight HR.
There are two other issues to consider in this case. First, there seems to be some concern about the elusive "character" issue.
Second, he is under contract through 2015, with $38.5 million due after this year, so acquiring him would be a major commitment that I don't see a small-market team making.
The arguments in favor of and against acquiring Upton have been well-documented here on Bleacher Report. I tend to agree with the arguments in favor, but the economic reality is that the Pirates can't afford his salary.
Thus, I view Upton as the fourth player on this list in terms of probability of being acquired.
Carlos Quentin averaged 25 HR per year in 2010 and 2011 with the White Sox. Stuck in hitter-hostile Petco Park, he has nine HRs in 40 games this year. He could certainly offer some power help in the outfield.
The Milwaukee Brewers are going nowhere fast in the NL Central, so maybe they would be interested in moving Corey Hart.
One source, MLBTradeRumors, says this is not going to happen. However, since he is only signed through 2013, there is not a long contract for the Bucs to take on.
Hart averaged 28 HR and 82 RBI in 2010 and 2011, so his numbers are in the same range as Pence and Quentin's.
Mired in last place in the NL East and with a bullpen in shambles, the Philadelphia Phillies might be close to a fire sale.
Naturally, Hunter Pence is included in discussions about outfielders potentially available for the right offer.
Pence, acquired by the Phillies in midseason 2011, averaged 23 HR and 94 RBI in 2010 and 2011.
This season, in hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, he has 17 HR and 57 RBI.
Pence has one more arbitration year left before he is eligible for free agency. The Phillies don't seem to be in any hurry to sign him to an extension, so trading him now for prospects might make good sense for them.
Right now, I think that Hunter Pence is the most likely of these five players to be wearing a Bucs uniform during the stretch drive.