Has the Hunter Become the Hunted?

Are the Houston Astros really considering trading Hunter Pence before Sunday’s trade deadline?

Ed Millerby Ed Miller

A little over four years ago, Hunter Pence made his debut for the Houston Astros.  Drafted 64th overall in the 2004 draft, Pence was a highly touted minor-leaguer who was the Astros’ future.   Pence hit .283 with 28 home runs and 95 RBIs in his first season in the minors and just one year later got the call up to the big squad, where he quickly became the best player on the Astros, thanks to trades and free agency. 

Pence is a solid all around player but is a big bat any team would want heading towards the home stretch.  He can field, runs the bases and has a cannon for an arm in right field.  This season the right-handed hitting, 28-year-old has a .307 batting average and a .467 slugging percentage.  He has 11 home runs and 62 RBIs in 426 plate appearances but has slumped since the All-Star breaking, hitting just .175 with only one extra-base hit.

Since the San Francisco Giants traded for Carlos Beltran yesterday, Pence has become the hottest commodity on the trade market but would the Astros let him go for the right price?

The Astros currently have the worst record in the majors at 34-70 and are said to be unsure about parting ways with the fan-favorite but are certainly entertaining offers.  The team is more interested in shedding some salaries at the starting pitching position, most notably Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers.  Pence is only making $6.9 million this season and will not hit the free agency market until after the 2013 season.

A potential deal was in place on Wednesday with the Philadelphia Phillies that would have sent Pence to Philadelphia for the Phillies’ top pitching prospect, best hitting prospect and one other minor leaguer.  However, the Astros backed out in the hopes of getting Dominic Brown, who just last year was voted one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Ed Wade – the general manager of the Astros – is the former GM of the Phillies and has worked with current Phillies GM Ruben Amaro.  Since the two have made transactions in the past, most notably for Brad Lidge in 2008, it could cause talks to shut down.

The Atlanta Braves need a right handed bat as bad as the Phillies and it has been rumored that the Braves have made a push for Pence in the last few days.  Pence would fit in well with the middle of the Atlanta’s lineup and to take him away from the Phillies would be an added bonus that potentially could make the National League East come down to the wire in October.

The Astros now have to make a decision before Sunday’s trade deadline; either trade the future for more potential studs or hang on to a fan favorite and build a team around him.

 

Photo Courtesy of The Associated Press.