Phils' Stalking of Hunter Gets Closer

(Photo: Steve Mitchell/US Presswire)

We're less than 48 hours away from Sunday's 4 pm Eastern time trading deadline and members of the Phillies front office don't figure to have much free time this weekend. Their main focus is on Houston's Hunter Pence and they appear to be making good progress.

There's no denying that a player like Hunter Pence would fit very, very nicely in the Phillies lineup. They were the first team to really start asking the Astros about him, well before there was any talk about the trading deadline and they're still tying up Ed Wade's phone line trying to get something done.

Rumor has it that the Phillies almost pulled off a deal to get Pence late Thursday afternoon. In fact, Brad Mills made one lineup that didn't have Pence in the lineup; now that's close. And in the middle part of the day Friday, reports were that the Phillies had pulled in a third team to help make the deal work and that they might include Domonic Brown in the trade. But then, that deal also fell apart and the latest - as of 8:00 pm Friday night - is that the Phillies and Astros are still working on a deal, but it will be a two-team deal and Brown won't be a part of the trade.

Pence would fit so perfectly because of a number of factors. First, he gives them a nice, big right-handed bat to put in the lineup behind Ryan Howard. There is no doubt that that fit alone would make Pence a great fit. In addition to that though, Pence is under team control for a couple more seasons, meaning that he's not one of the typical "rent-a-player" type players, much like the Giants received in their deal for Carlos Beltran. He also fits, because next season, Raul Ibanez will be gone and either Brown or Pence can move to left field.

In a perfect world, the Phillies will be able to make a deal before much - if any - of the weekend goes by. That gives them a chance to switch focus and still pursue Carlos Quentin or possibly B.J. Upton. There's no denying that the Phillies have lifted their standards for the type of player they would like to acquire. Initially, they were looking at Josh Willingham, Ryan Ludwick and Jeff Francoeur. That eventually moved up to Beltran and Kansas City's Melky Cabrera and has now gone more into the upper echelon of available right-handed hitters.

As for who would go in the deal, the Phillies have already offered minor league first baseman Jonathan Singleton and top young pitching prospect Jared Cosart, plus another prospect in the deal and were turned down. Houston was reportedly holding out for Vance Worley, but the Phillies quickly killed that possibility; "Vanimal" is going nowhere. The Phillies would have considered Brown, but not with Singleton and Cosart. Wade needs to have someone out of the deal that he can put on the Houston roster immediately to show fans there is at least something that they got out of the deal. That's possibly where Lehigh Valley reliever Michael Schwimer might come in, or possibly Justin DeFratus or John Mayberry could take that spot.

This deal could literally happen at any time. Pence is in the lineup for Houston in their game at Milwaukee, but that doesn't mean he couldn't be pulled out of the lineup during the game.

The move would be a great response to the Giants' addition of Beltran and would also be a damaging blow to Atlanta's chances of catching the Phillies in the NL East. The Braves are interested in Pence and some reports even have the Astros preferring some of the Braves' prospects to the Phillies, but that doesn't do Houston any good, because Atlanta doesn't want to give up any of their key prospects like pitchers Mike Minor or Julio Teheran. If Atlanta does decide to include one of those key players, it could easily derail the Phillies chances in their hunt for Hunter. Stay tuned.

Hunter Pence's career stats

Year Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2007 Houston 108 456 57 147 30 9 17 69 26 95 .322 .360 .539 .899
2008 Houston 157 595 78 160 34 4 25 83 40 124 .269 .318 .466 .783
2009 Houston 159 585 76 165 26 5 25 72 58 109 .282 .346 .472 .818
2010 Houston 156 614 93 173 29 3 25 91 41 105 .282 .325 .461 .786
2011 Houston 99 398 49 123 26 3 11 62 29 86 .309 .356 .472 .828
5 Seasons 679 2648 353 768 145 24 103 377 194 519 .290 .339 .480 .818

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/29/2011.


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