More specifically, the Giants may be forced to explore moving their top trade chip, outfielder Hunter Pence, who’s likely to command a favorable return from teams targeting him out of necessity.
Acquired from Philadelphia last season just before the July 31 deadline, Pence and the Giants avoided arbitration during the offseason by agreeing to a one-year, $13.8 million deal. He will become a free agent after the 2013 season.
Although several teams have already expressed interest in the 30-year-old outfielder, the Giants are unlikely to move him this season unless they are overwhelmed by a specific offer, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
With that being said, here’s a look at five teams capable of flattering the Giants with a loaded prospect package in exchange for Pence before the deadline.
2B Rougned Odor
After acquiring veteran starter Matt Garza early in the week, the Rangers are reportedly still in the market for an impact bat. And with a possible suspension of Nelson Cruz on the horizon due to his involvement in the ongoing Biogenesis scandal, the team ideally would prefer to add a right-handed hitting outfielder such as Hunter Pence, says Jeff Wilson of the Star-Telegram.
Even though the Giants have several promising arms in their system, they haven’t produced an impact position prospect since graduating Buster Posey to the major leagues in 2010. Therefore, if the Giants decide to move Pence before the deadline, working out a deal with the Rangers could net them multiple young hitters.
Furthermore, the Giants would be wise to target highly touted prospects such as second baseman Rougned Odor and outfielder Nick Williams. Odor, a 19-year-old second baseman, has excelled this season as one of the younger everyday players in the Carolina League, batting .305/.368/.457 with 40 extra-base hits and 26 stolen bases in 93 games. Meanwhile, Williams, also 19, has emerged as the most impressive hitter on a loaded Low-A Hickory team. Through the first 70 games of his full-season debut, the left-handed hitter is batting .313/.354/.601 with 40 extra-base hits in 281 at-bats.
The Pirates are in the same boat as the Rangers, as they reportedly are interested in acquiring an impact outfielder before the July 31 trade deadline. They are also one of a few select teams with sufficient depth on the farm to realistically make a run at Pence.
While right-hander Jameson Taillon figures to be untouchable, the Pirates could emerge as the front-runner to land Pence by making outfielder Gregory Polanco available. Recently ranked as our No. 12 overall prospect, Polanco, 21, has rapidly developed into one of the top outfield prospects in the game, thanks to a combination of athleticism, multiple plus tools and secondary skills that are advanced for his age.
Coming off a breakout 2012 campaign at Low-A West Virginia, Polanco made quick work of the pitcher-friendly Florida State League this season, posting an .836 OPS with 23 extra-base hits and 24 stolen bases in 57 games before a midseason promotion to Double-A Altoona.
And while he’s been challenged at the more advanced level, the left-handed hitter has still impressed with a .739 OPS and more walks (17) than strikeouts (15) through 31 games. And if Polanco alone isn’t enough to seal the deal, the Pirates could also toss in a young, high-upside pitching prospect such a Clay Holmes.
2B Christian Colon
Despite trailing the Tigers by eight games in the AL Central, the Royals are reportedly looking to add at the trade deadline. While the acquisition of a veteran starting pitcher may be their top priority, the organization could also target an impact outfielder such as Pence with the intention of signing him to a multiyear contract after the season.
With a farm system comprised of mostly younger players in the low minors, Kansas City could potentially entice the Giants with a combination of position and pitching prospects.
20-year-old Jorge Bonifacio—yes, he’s the younger brother of Emilio—is the first player that comes to mind given his projection as a solid everyday right fielder at the major league level. Although he’s spent time on the disabled list this season, Bonifacio has posted an impressive .792 OPS with 15 extra-base hits and 35/22 K/BB in 50 games for High-A Wilmington.
Additionally, the Royals could also offer 24-year-old Christian Colon, the team’s first-round pick (No. 4 overall) from the 2010 draft. Originally expected the reach the major leagues in a hurry, the second baseman has struggled to stay healthy since entering the system and has seemingly faded from the organization’s long-term plans as a result. And while he’s managed to stay on the field this season at Triple-A Omaha, the right-handed hitter is batting only .247/.306/.351 through 94 games.
RHP Dellin Betances
In order to make a run at Hunter Pence, the Yankees would be forced to offer the Giants several mid-level prospects—basically anyone other than Gary Sanchez. With that being said, 21-year-old Mason Williams could serve as their most attractive trade chip, especially considering his recent hot streak at High-A Tampa. Overall, the toolsy center fielder is batting .282/.350/.390 with 26 extra-base hits, 11 stolen bases and 46/33 K/BB in 81 games.
The Yankees could also clear some room on their 40-man roster by dealing once-promising pitching prospect Dellin Betances, who has demonstrated some value as a reliever this season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
An eighth-round draft pick in 2006, the 25-year-old right-hander has already flamed out as a starter but has pitched decently this year following an early-season relegation to the bullpen. Overall, Betances has registered a 3.34 ERA and .180 BAA with four saves and 77/34 K/BB in 64.2 innings.
And if those two players aren’t enough to complete the deal, the Yankees could also include former top prospect Manny Banuelos, a 22-year-old left-hander who is sitting out the 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. While there’s no guarantee that he’ll ever show the potential that made him one of the game’s top pitching prospects heading into the 2012 season, Banuelos stills holds decent value given his age and previous success in the high minors.
Although the Mets are expected to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline, it still makes sense for them to explore the acquisition of Pence given their need for an established outfielder. And despite the fact that a deal involving top prospects Noah Syndergaard and Travis d’Arnaud is out of the question, the Mets have several prospects who could appeal to the Giants.
Second baseman Wilmer Flores has come into his own over the last two seasons and carries additional value due to his ability to play multiple positions on the infield. At the plate, the 21-year-old is nearly ready for the major leagues, batting .319/.354/.522 with 49 extra-base hits and 55/21 K/BB this season in 95 games for Triple-A Las Vegas.
The Mets could also include flame-throwing right-hander Domingo Tapia in the deal, who has become expendable this season with the success of Syndergaard and Rafael Montero. Coming off a breakout performance last year for Low-A Savannah, the 21-year-old has struggled in the Florida State League, registering a 4.15 ERA with 66/43 K/BB in 73.2 innings.