San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence could be the right-handed bat for which the Cincinnati Reds are looking.
The Cincinnati Reds were strong out of the gate after the All-Star break, with a 6-2 record and a plus-25 run differential during that stretch. However, the Reds have since stalled at 59 wins on the season, and they’re currently in the midst of a four-game losing streak.
As of July 29, Cincinnati is five games back of the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Central division. With the non-waiver trade deadline set for 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday, July 31st, it’s time for America's oldest professional team to test the trade market.
MLB.com's Mark Sheldon wrote that the Reds aren't likely to be major players at the trade deadline. He wrote that a combination of the expected return of key role players from the disabled list, budget limitations and a lack of top prospects will contribute to Cincinnati's "quiet" trade deadline. In an interview with Sheldon, Cincinnati's GM Walt Jocketty said that the Reds have not engaged in serious trade talk with other teams:
If we do acquire a right-handed bat, what do we do with Ludwick when he gets back? If there is somebody available that can definitely help the club, we'll certainly take a look. To this point, we haven't had any conversations with a club that indicated that.
The Reds could potentially trade for a right-handed hitter or a pitcher to improve their bullpen. However, with all of the key contributors expected to return from the DL in the second half of the season, Cincinnati is unlikely to make a trade at the deadline.
Third baseman Michael Young is batting .277 for the Philadelphia Phillies this season.
Young is batting 31 points higher than the Reds’ current third baseman, Todd Frazier, but he is nine years older and his production is declining. He is no longer capable of hitting .338 with 106 RBI like he did for the Texas Rangers in 2011. Frazier has three more home runs and 17 more RBI than Young this season. But the two have a very similar on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS.
Besides third base, Young has played significantly as a designated hitter, first baseman and second baseman. The Reds aren’t in need of help at any of those three positions, which means that it is very unlikely that they would trade for him.
#yankees may not be ruled out on michael young, but if his preference is 1. texas 2. Boston, nyy chances very limited.
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) July 30, 2013
Hunter Pence would provide the Reds with the right-handed hitter that they're hoping to acquire at the trade deadline.
Pence currently plays right field for the Giants, but he would presumably take over left field if Cincinnati traded for him.
The 30-year-old has 20-20 potential with his combination of speed on the basepaths and power in the batter’s box. He is hitting .277 this season with 14 home runs and 51 RBI. He gets on base in nearly one-third of his plate appearances, and he is a perfect 14 for 14 on stolen base attempts this season.
Cincinnati has only 33 stolen bases this year as a team, so Pence would provide the right-handed bat that the Reds are looking for and, additionally, a threat on the basepaths.
Reds rookie Derrick Robinson has been Cincinnati’s main left fielder this season. In 76 games, he has not hit a home run, he has only seven RBI and he has been caught stealing on three of his six stolen base attempts.
Outfielder Chris Heisey returned to the lineup at the end of June after dealing with a hamstring injury. He is batting only .216 with five home runs and 12 RBI this season.
Pence would immediately be an upgrade over both Robinson and Heisey.
Josh Willingham hit 35 home runs and knocked in 110 RBI last season.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay wrote that the Reds should look to add offense, not relief pitching, at the trade deadline. Specifically, Fay named Minnesota Twins left fielder Josh Willingham as a trade target for the Reds:
One name to keep in mind: Josh Willingham. He’s a right-handed bat. His average is down (.224), but he has a .356 on-base. He hit 28 and 35 home runs the last two years playing his home games in Oakland and Minnesota. Great American is much more hitter friendly than either.
He’s “only” owed $7 million next year.
Fay wrote that if Cincinnati is worried about Ryan Ludwick's productivity when he returns, Willingham could be the answer in left field.
The right-hander had a 35-home run/110-RBI season last year, and the Reds would be satisfied if he only reproduced a fraction of those numbers in Cincinnati. He has an OPS 40 points higher than the average Reds left fielder this season.
However, it is unlikely that the Reds will trade for him because of the huge drop-off in production from last season (.260/.366/.524 with 35 home runs and 110 RBI) to this season (.224/.356/.398 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI).