Hunter Pence Should Not Be Atlanta Braves' Target at the MLB Trade Deadline
However, this is one trade the Braves should stay out of. The asking price is simply too high for a guy that really isn't even an elite player.
According to ESPN's Jayson Stark, the Phillies offered Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart and a second-tier pitching prospect, while the Braves aren't budging on their quartet of mouth-watering pitching talent (Minor, Delgado, Vizcaino and Teheran). Even Domonic Brown's named was mentioned, though Buster Olney has recently reported that the Phillies are not going to give him up for Pence and they very well shouldn't.
Please don't misunderstand me here. I'm not saying Pence is a bad player, because he isn't. He's just not worth the names I'm seeing. It's true that these prospects may never come around, including Domonic Brown, but if Houston lands a deal before the deadline with Philadelphia or Atlanta, it will be highway robbery.
Pence is a "star" in Houston simply because there isn't much on the field for the Astros. He's a gritty player, and there's something to be said for guys that play the game the way he does. It's an intangible worth having, but the asking price has to come down. A guy demanding the types of names I've seen should be considered an elite player.
So what can Pence do for a new suitor?
He's a career .290 hitter, but his average has been all over the place in his career. His current average sits at .307, but this is due to luck more than anything. The only time his BABIP was this high was in his rookie season (.377) when he hit .322.
I'm not sure if he'll ever be able to hit .300 consistently because he strikes out at a bit of a high rate, and he's prone to prolonged slumps (hitting .200 since the All Star break). Combine this with his unwillingness to walk very often and it won't always help his batting average. I think he'll hit in the low .280s more often than not, considering he's had two consecutive campaigns at .282.
Pence isn't the greatest baserunner and he also is an average fielder at best. Worse yet, the Braves are in need of a center fielder, and Pence also does not fill that need. This is especially true after Nate McLouth was recently placed on the 15-day DL.
While the hits keep rolling for Atlanta, you have to wonder if it will force general manager Frank Wren to make a play for a big bat, though there aren't really many impact bats left with Carlos Beltran off the market.
What do you do if you're Wren?
Do you risk making a few minor moves and hope that all the injured veterans return 100 percent healthy in a few weeks? Or do you risk the future by dealing prized prospects and getting help currently? All I can say is that I'm glad I'm not Wren.
Pence isn't the answer. I saw Jim Bowden mention via Twitter that Jason Heyward could be demoted if Pence were acquired. How does this help Atlanta? Do you really want to throw a wrench like that into Heyward's development? The key word is rumor here, but it's still alarming either way. That would completely negate the trade for Pence because Heyward is a lot more talented.
It helps that Pence could be kept for two and a half more seasons, but if the Braves are going to pony up and deal their high-end prospects, then it needs to be for a guy like B.J. Upton.
Upton brings his own risks (low batting average, strikeouts, attitude problem), and they may very well be too much to take on, but he has that star potential you look for when trading away your best prospects. He fills the center field need, but he's not really a good leadoff hitter, even though he has spent most of his career in that slot.
I think the acquisition should be Michael Bourn or Denard Span. Peter Bourjos is of interest as well. Span and Bourjos seem to be expendable with younger prospects waiting in the wings, though Mike Trout is struggling for the Angels. Unfortunately, Span is currently on the DL with a concussion, but he's close to returning. The Twins apparently would like the Nationals' studly young closer, Drew Storen, (who wouldn't?) in exchange for him, though, and that seems a bit high.
The next tier of trade candidates would be Marlon Byrd, Reed Johnson, Coco Crisp and Ryan Sweeney. Take a look at the WAR for each of these players in comparison to Pence.
Sweeney posted WAR of 2.2 and 4.3 with full playing time in 2008 and 2009. His availability is unknown to me, but the Athletics do have a slew of outfielders that could help playoff teams (Willingham, Crisp, Sweeney and DeJesus) for those teams looking to take a cheaper route to improvement.
Wren doesn't seem to be budging on moving his young hurlers, and that will likely keep the Braves from making a major splash. That isn't to say that we shouldn't expect the unexpected, because Wren is entirely capable of pulling off an under-the-radar deal. All we can really do is wait.
One thing is certain: Pence's value will never be this high again.
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