Could Hunter Pence soon be wearing Dodger blue?
Big things were expected for the Los Angeles Dodgers when their new ownership group (Guggenheim Baseball Management) took over the team in late March. Money was going to be spent. Trades were going to be made. Championships were going to be pursued.
So far, the Dodgers have shown they intend to fulfill those expectations.
General manager Ned Colletti has already gotten Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins, filling a major hole on the left side of the infield. But it's still expected that the Dodgers will make another move before the July 31 trade deadline, presumably to add another starting pitcher.
However, Colletti apparently has something more in mind. The man is aiming quite a bit higher.
Even if they have Ramirez and Dempster, Colletti also wants to add an outfielder. And he has his eyes on either Hunter Pence or Shane Victorino from the Philadelphia Phillies.
Let's look at Victorino first, since he could be the more likely acquisition. He'll be a free agent after the season and is owed the remainder of his $9.5 million salary this year (probably $4-5 million). He's also having a down year, batting .235/.318/.388 with eight home runs and 38 RBI.
With those two red marks, the Phillies aren't in a position to get that much for him. ESPN.com's Jim Bowden says Philadelphia is seeking a reliever in return.
Pence is the more appealing target, however.
At 29, he's almost three years younger than Victorino. He's under club control through 2013 with one more arbitration-eligbile season. And though his numbers are down slightly from last year, he's been far more productive. In 426 plate appearances this season, Pence is batting .268/.336/.451 with 17 homers and 58 RBI.
But if Colletti is reportedly unwilling to trade a top prospect like Zach Lee, can he pull off a trade to get Pence?
Additionally, the Phillies are rumored to want a center field or third base prospect close to ready for the major leagues. Alex Castellanos might fit that profile, but what else can the Dodgers build around him?
What if Colletti can get this done? Under the best case scenario, he'd add Dempster to the Dodgers' rotation and Pence to the outfield.
With a starting rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Dempster, Chris Capuano, Chad Billingsley and Aaron Harang, the Dodgers would have a formidable five to oppose the Giants as the two rivals compete for the NL West title. That top three would give the Dodgers a chance to win any playoff series as well.
As I wrote on Tuesday, Pence would be a great fit for the No. 5 spot in the Dodgers' batting order. A middle of the order of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Pence would provide a strong right-left-right combination.
That was written before the Dodgers got Ramirez. Then you'd be looking at Pence or Ramirez batting fifth or sixth, creating a deeper batting order that would make opposing pitching staffs work harder to get through the Dodgers' one through nine hitters.
No favorite has truly emerged in the National League as we head toward August. The Washington Nationals look as if they could be the best team in the league and the Cincinnati Reds are playing extremely well. Then you have the Braves, Pirates, Giants and Cardinals to contend with too.
If the Dodgers could add this rumored trio of players, however, they would match up nicely against anyone. That includes any American League team they would face in the World Series.
The fact that such a run is even considered possible speaks to the impression that the Dodgers' new ownership has already made. Anything seems possible with the money they're willing to spend and take on. Getting Ramirez was merely the first step in what could be a thrilling late summer and early fall in Chavez Ravine.
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