MLB Trade Speculation 2011: Astros' Hunter Pence and 5 Teams Who Need Him Most
Hunter Pence is one of the better names on the 2011 trade market, but he hasn't been getting the same attention as Mets slugger Carlos Beltran.
True, Carlos Beltran has more home runs and a higher OPS. He also has a massive contract and an even longer medical history to go along with it. Aside from a half-year rental, there is virtually no upside to acquiring Beltran. He is not at all a long-term option.
The potential upside from acquiring Hunter Pence is far greater. Pence is at worst an average defender who has above average range. He's a good hitter who will dependably post 25 home runs a season and will hit close to .300. He's also under team control with two more years of arbitration before he's eligible for free agency.
Hunter Pence is far younger, far faster, and a far better option for teams to acquire.
Here's five of them who should!
San Francisco Giants
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They've long been in the discussion for Carlos Beltran from the Mets, and according to Newsday's David Lennon, that chatter has increased. Beltran would represent that middle of the line-up bat they've been looking for and help them increase their division lead and march towards the playoffs.
So would Pence. Not only that, but he would better represent the Giants NL style of small ball. With Beltran in the lineup he can hit doubles and home runs, but a guy like Pence could be better for situational managing.
At this point in their careers, Pence is the more athletic and the faster player, and he can steal you some bases. Beltran has already matched his 2010 stolen base total with three. Pence has seven this year and stole 18 the season before.
Pence would also help the Giants solidify their left field situation into a long-term solution. He's an upgrade over Cody Ross and is far better than names like Pat Burrell, who have been used out there the last few seasons.
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Pence wouldn't be the Braves first choice, as they're looking to move Martin Prado back to left field and keep Jayson Heyward in right field after third baseman Chipper Jones comes back from surgery.
With that said, teams can never have too much depth. Imagine having Chipper Jones come off the bench as your depth. He's a good utility player and has played over 300 games in left field for his career. He would be a perfect pinch hitter to put up in clutch situations down the stretch.
The Braves are a team looking ahead to the postseason. They're also a team looking ahead to the future. Perhaps Prado makes the move back to the outfield for Chipper, but is he really their long-term solution out there? It is much more likely that Chipper retires after this season, which would open the door for the future in left field for Hunter Pence.
In a division with the Phillies, you cannot have too many good players in your line-up. It would be a mistake to block Hunter Pence because of line-up congestion.
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The Pittsburgh Pirates finally find themselves in a pennant race. They are right in the thick of things in the NL Central and sit just a game back of the Brewers for the division lead. Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review commented on how the Pirates had scouts out to take a look at Hunter Pence.
Pence would be a good fit with the Pirates. They are a solid team who play baseball the right way. They play situational baseball, and they aren't a team of superstars. More importantly, Hunter Pence fits into a picture for a team who is building for the future.
While the Pirates may be in the hunt for October, they are certainly not the favorites. But a good young team built around a smaller payroll certainly could absorb a player like Hunter Pence for this season and the next few. Pence is making just $6.9 million this season and through arbitration would still likely not break the bank.
For the Pittsburgh Pirates, a solid value option like Hunter Pence is the ultimate upgrade. A big name like Carlos Beltran would stretch payroll limitations and wouldn't work as well with team dynamics.
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When the Phillies signed Cliff Lee in the offseason, they stretched the limits on an already tightening budget. Now into the deadline, they are definitely not a team able to take on a lot of payroll.
Hunter Pence and his pro-rated portion of $6.9 million would work well within those constraints. Danny Knobler of CBS Sports tweeted that the Phillies have already checked in on Pence.
If you browse down the line-up for the Phillies, you would find a whole lot of names aged 30 or older. Right field remains their only regular position under age 30, and that is platooned with Dominic Brown and Ben Francisco. Adding Pence to the mix may replace 39-year-old Raul Ibanez and replace the oldest player on the Phillies with who would be one of the younger ones.
The Phillies have nothing lacking for pitching and are just looking for some bats to strengthen their lineup.
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Sometimes the best move is the one that you don't make. Wandy Rodriguez is still being shopped around this year, while Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt were both moved last season at the trade deadline. Somebody has to remain on the team for fans to come out and watch.
Pence is still under team control for the next few seasons, so there isn't a pressing need to move him. That's probably why the asking price has been so high. Peter Gammons tweeted that it would take a three to four player deal to land Pence and that a deal looks unlikely. Jon Heyman echoed this by tweeting how the asking price is prohibitive enough that teams are sure he'll remain with the Astros.
As was the case with Berkman, Pence is a born, bred and beloved Texan. He was born in Arlington, graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington, and was drafted in the second round to the Houston Astros. It's obvious that Pence would like to remain in Houston, a place that's close to home, where family and friends can come and watch him play.
Pence could be what Joe Mauer was for the Twins; a home-town star taking the home-town discount. Future contracts shouldn't scare the Astros into dealing Pence, and he's the sort of player you can build your franchise around for years to come.