At one point in time, Hunter Pence was the young cornerstone around whom the Houston Astros were attempting to build a championship team.
However, those days are long gone.
With the Astros sporting baseball's worst record and Pence's contract beginning to become an albatross to the team's payroll (Pence is making $6.9 million in 2011 and is arbitration eligible for the next two seasons), now is looking like an opportune time for Houston to deal their stud rightfielder.
Pence, who has hit 25 home runs in each of his three full big league seasons, is sporting a lofty .315 batting average to go along with his 9 home runs and 53 RBI thus far in 2011.
Fittingly, there are a number of contending teams who would be enamored with the idea of adding Pence's big bat to their lineups.
Here are five potential suitors for Hunter Pence.
The Philadelphia Phillies are no strangers to acquiring big names at the trade deadline.
Last year, they spun a trade for former Astros ace Roy Oswalt.
In 2009 they found a way to obtain Cliff Lee en route to the National League pennant.
You can bet that this year Phillies management has its mind set on bringing in Hunter Pence's big bat to aid what is an anemic offensive club.
The defending NL East champions are currently ranked 21st in all of Major League Baseball in batting average, while placing 18th in home runs.
Trading for Pence would give the Phillies offense a shot of life and may be just what they need to stave off the surging Atlanta Braves and procure their fifth-straight division title.
As recently mentioned, the Atlanta Braves are surging.
At 46-35, the Braves are leading the National League wild card race, and are sitting just 4.5 games behind the NL East-leading Phillies.
The Braves have been dependent on their pitching staff up to this point, but how long can their arms carry them?
Atlanta's team batting average, .236, is tied for the fourth worst in baseball.
Not to mention, their outfield has hit a combined 11 home runs this year—just two more than Hunter Pence alone.
The reasons for acquiring Pence are blatant.
With a top-rated farm system and trade chips galore, the ball is in the Braves' court.
Given the season-ending injury to catcher Buster Posey, the San Francisco Giants are playing just about as well as anyone could have expected.
They're currently 46-34 and find themselves 2.5 games in front of the Arizona Diamondbacks for first place in the NL West.
However, the Giants strong point has been their pitching, and as with the Braves, you have to wonder how long San Francisco's staff can mask the team's true deficiencies.
The Giants rank 26th in home runs and 22nd in batting average.
They need to be in the market for a power bat come the trade deadline, and what better place to look than in the direction of Hunter Pence?
Acquiring Pence would do wonders toward easing the sting of the Posey injury and could be just what the Giants need to return to the World Series.
The Orioles are the least likely out of the teams on this list to acquire Hunter Pence.
Given their place in the standings, it would appear that the Orioles will take on the role of sellers come the trade deadline.
However, the Orioles apparent power outage at a premium long-ball position in left field has been rather alarming. (Felix Pie and Nolan Reymold have hit three home runs combined)
Given their pitching staff's 4.35 ERA—good enough for fourth-worst in baseball—if the Orioles wish to compete in the future, they can't afford to exhibit offensive ineptitude.
There may not be a more capable power-hitting left fielder made available over the next few years than Hunter Pence.
With that in mind, the Orioles would be wise to go after the slugger.
Placing Pence in a lineup with the likes of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, J.J. Hardy, Matt Wieters, and Mark Reynolds might be enough to mask Baltimore's pitching struggles and finally put the Orioles over the hump in the competitive AL East.
When discussing an available premier talent at the trade deadline, the New York Yankees will almost certainly be part of the conversation.
Sometimes it's for greed, but other times the Yankees infatuation with a player is genuine.
Enter Hunter Pence.
Even with the recent surge of rightfielder Nick Swisher, the Yankees still haven't seen the production they expected out of their corner outfielders.
Swisher is hitting just .249, while Brett Gardner and the ancient Andruw Jones have played themselves into a platoon over in leftfield.
The Yankees are 46-31 and 1.5 games ahead of the second-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
Imagine how far ahead the Yankees would be if they had a potent bat such as Hunter Pence's in the middle of their lineup.
The Yankees aren't afraid to utilize their young trade chips and are constantly looking for ways to make themselves better, so don't be surprised if talk of Pence to the Yankees becomes serious as we approach the July 31st trade deadline.
Not to mention, Hunter Pence hitting at Yankee Stadium for 81 games a year is a downright scary thought.