Whether it is possible or not, the Hunter Pence to the Pittsburgh Pirates speculation is hitting high gear. The Pirates are in the race for the NL Central division title and have certain needs/wants prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.
Personally, I still consider this speculation because, as a Pirates fan, it seems way too good to be true.
But is it possible for the Buccos to actually score a player of Pence's caliber? To say the least, it would be a difficult score.
For starters, the Houston Astros know Hunter Pence is an excellent player. He is a 28 year old All-Star. Getting rid of him would be a real risk on their part.
But, if players such as Randy Johnson and Alex Rodriguez have been traded, Hunter Pence certainly is not immune to such speculation and rumors.
Another factor against a trade to the Pirates is the fact that they are in the Astros division. It is one thing to discard a star player. Having to see him each season multiple times in another uniform could be damaging to the team in both the standings and psyche.
Look at how painful it has been to see Aramis Ramirez return to Pittsburgh with the Chicago Cubs over the years. He gets booed every at-bat, but it may as well be the fans crying over what could have been had Ramirez remained a Pirate.
Pence has a contract that pays $6.9 million this season. He is arbitration eligible in 2012 and free agent eligible in 2014. I do not think it is hyperbole to say that acquiring Pence could mark the beginning of a new era for Pittsburgh baseball.
It seems likely that the Pirates would only acquire Pence with the hopes of signing him to a contract because of the price they will likely have to pay. While it may stop just short of a "king's ransom," it seems realistic to expect the Astros to want at least three of the Pirates top prospects in return.
Grabbing Hunter Pence and signing him may be just what is needed to convince players like Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and Joel Hanhrahan that Pittsburgh is where they want to spend their careers. While money will always talk loudest, if these players feel like they can win here, it greatly increases the teams chances of keeping these guys for the duration of their careers.
Many Pirate fans have balked at the notion of dipping in to the prospect "reserve" the franchise is attempting to stockpile, but a player of Pence's capabilities should force the organization and its fanbase to take a long hard look at this team and whether or not the future has arrived a bit earlier than any of us could have hoped for.
According to Buster Olney's Twitter Account, "Teams that talk to Astros about Hunter Pence walk away convinced it will take a major, major overpay to pry him away from Houston right now."
Is losing a Sterling Marte and Stetson Allie worth acquiring Pence?
Only the team can decide that and we can each have our opinions on the matter. One thing I do know is that after 18 losing season, it feels great to even have to consider these options.