By now, it has been established that the Phillies are looking to upgrade in the outfield. Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman reports that Hunter Pence is the organization's No. 1 candidate and that Domonic Brown would get the Astros to pull the trigger. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro is in a difficult position because of Raul Ibanez. In an ideal world, the Phillies would discard Ibanez, acquire Pence with a package of Jonathan Singelton, Jarred Cosart plus others and play Pence and Brown in the corner outfield positions.
With the Braves and Reds also discussing Pence, Amaro cannot send Brown in the deal. The Phillies are still the favorite to win the National League Pennant, and Brown is a key to any future Phillies championship runs. Pence's line of .309/.356/.472 is impressive, but Pence is due for some regression this season as he is closer to a .280 type of hitter. His .370 BABIP will regress, and troublingly, his fly ball rate has dropped each of the last three seasons to a career low of 31.5 percent in 2011. Furthermore, his HR/FB rate is currently a career-worst 11.1 percent.
Pence provides an upgrade in terms of outfield defense, and he has a three- to four-win replacement value, but the package of Cosart and Singelton should be enough to acquire Pence. Buster Olney reported that the Braves are not willing to include any of their top pitching prospects, such as Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, and Mike Minor, in any deals. Furthermore, the Reds may not want to trade their top prospects when the club is 6.5 games back in the Central with three teams ahead of them.
Brown has struggled with a .237/.318/.387 line and seven home runs over his first 270 career plate appearances, but he has already shown improvements in his strikeout rates and his 2011 on base percentage is only 12 points lower than that of Pence. Brown's power grades are through the roof, and he would be projected to hit 20 home runs this season if he had as many at-bats as Pence.
Pence will command the most value now, and the Astros are in no future position to make any postseason run over the next few seasons. The time to make this trade is now, and the price for Pence will eventually drop. He is a good player, but not worth mortgaging a future 30-plus home run power. The Phillies have enough now to make a push towards the World Series, and since Ibanez's contract comes off the books this offseason, Amaro can find a right-handed bat in the offseason.
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