Atlanta Braves: Hunter Pence Could Be Perfect Remedy for Struggling Offense

Chris WilkesContributor IIJune 5, 2011

HOUSTON - MAY 24:  Hunter Pence #9 of the Houston Astros doubles to right field in the third inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers  at Minute Maid Park on May 24, 2011 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
Bob Levey/Getty Images

Entering the month of June, the Atlanta Braves are in dire need of offense.

While the Braves lineup on paper seems to have potential, the unfortunate combination of injuries, slumping stars and lack of speed have caused a drought of offense over the past month.

Most notably, the injury woes are hurting Atlanta. Last years rookie sensation Jason Heyward has been sidelined since May 21 with shoulder issues, and doesn't seem likely to return in the near future.

Heyward's absence has dealt a huge blow to Atlanta's offensive firepower.

Additional injuries to Nate McLouth and Chipper Jones have plagued the Braves also. In the final 14 games of May, Atlanta only posted a .192 average with runners in scoring position; with such a low average in scoring scenarios, Atlanta has trouble winning games, even with its stellar pitching staff.

New addition Dan Uggla, a self-declared "slow starter,"continues to disappoint at the plate. The former Marlin slugger is batting a miserable .174 in 239 at-bats, and has only 14 RBI, mostly from his seven homers. Uggla's season long struggles have been a constant problem.

With Heyward on the Disabled List and Uggla's ice-cold bat, the Braves can only depend on power from Brian McCann and utility-man Eric Hinske.

Speed is another huge problem for the Braves. Atlanta ranks dead last in stolen-bases with a jokingly low 11. On the bases, the Braves are the only team with more runners caught stealing than bases actually stolen at an embarrassing 16/11 ratio.

The Braves leader in steals is the injured Heyward with only three, and the lumbering rookie Freddie Freeman is next with only two steals. Lack of speed means very few steals, but also restricts chances for hit-and-run situations and extra base hitting.

With all these offensive problems, it's no surprise Atlanta is looking for hitters. The best and almost ideal candidate is Houston's young star Hunter Pence.

Pence is batting .311 with 43 RBI and a .355 OBP. His speed isn't spectacular, but a definite improvement compared to the current lineup. He would be a god-send to the injury-riddled Atlanta outfield and a breath of fresh air in both offense and defensive facets.

A trade would be expensive by Atlanta standards at 6.9 million per season, but would secure Pence for at-least the next two seasons. The Astros would surely demand top-level prospects for pence, but the Braves have such a surplus of young talent that it wouldn't be a problem.

Probably the biggest reason for Atlanta to acquire Pence is to keep him out of arch-rival Philadelphia. While most analysts claim the Phillies can ill-afford another pricey contract, nothing is impossible for the heavy-spending club, especially for such a talented player.

If Atlanta can land Pence, get Uggla back on track, and heal their injured stars like Heyward, the Braves could quickly see their offense improve.

With the stellar pitching in Atlanta, a potent run-scoring offense could make them contenders come October.