Hunter Pence: Trading Star Outfielder Should Be Phillies' Top Deadline Priority

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJuly 30, 2012

BALTIMORE, MD - JUNE 9:  Hunter Pence #3 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks on during batting practice of a interleague baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on June 9, 2012 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Hunter Pence was the acquisition who was supposed to put the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series last season. This year, the outfielder should be the piece that is used to help replenish the franchise's lackluster farm system. 

Jim Salisbury of Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia wrote on Monday morning that the Phillies have at least explored the idea of trading Pence, who is under club control through 2013. 

Most interest is on Vic, Blanton. Phils have pushed Pence but want big return. Phils still have more than 24 hours to max return.

— Jim Salisbury (@JSalisburyCSN) July 30, 2012

According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, the Phillies have been pushing Pence more than Shane Victorino, who is two years older than Pence and will become a free agent at the end of the year, making him less valuable to a team trying to acquire him. 

Victorino joins Dempster and Broxton as a must-go free agent, though executives say the Phillies haven't shopped him nearly as aggressively as Pence, who could make upward of $14 million through arbitration next season.

Pence may not be worth as much as the Phillies gave up to acquire him last year—namely, Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart—but he should, at least in theory, fetch one top-level prospect. 

For the Phillies, trying to get younger and save money wherever they can should be their goal right now. At 45-57, 16.5 games back in the National League East and 12.5 back in the Wild Card, they aren't going to the playoffs. 

But, looking towards the future, things could get worse before they get better in Philadelphia. The Phillies' farm system used to be a strength, with homegrown talents Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels being key cogs for the 2008 World Series team. 

Plus, they were able to use their prospects to acquire Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hunter Pence at various times between 2009 and 2011. 

Now, those impact players in the minors just aren't there. Dominic Brown is still an interesting prospect, but his stock is not close to what it was two years ago.

Entering the year, Trevor May was the top prospect in the system. Now, he has given up 19 home runs in 110 innings and has an ERA of 5.15 in Double-A. They have a lot of problems in the upper levels of the minor leagues, which means all of their older players have to stay healthy for 162 games to give them a chance to win. 

With the team having no real signs of hope for the rest of 2012 or any time after that, keeping Pence to see his trade value go down the closer he gets to free agency doesn't make much sense. 

It is time for the Phillies to face the reality of the situation—they are a sinking ship in desperate need of a life preserver. Trading Pence won't turn everything around right away, but it would be a start. They just have to find the right deal to make it happen.