PHOENIX, AZ - : National League All-Star Hunter Pence #9 of the Houston Astros reacts during an at bat during the 82nd MLB All-Star Game at Chase Field in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
The Houston Astros are indicating that they might trade Hunter Pence, who isn't a free agent until after 2013. What kind of deal could they get?
Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence is one of the oddest baseball players in the game today. Oh, I don't know about his personality -- he might be one of those iconoclasts that likes to hunt, fish, and golf when he isn't playing baseball -- I'm just referring to how Pence looks, swings, and runs. I'm not sure if he has extra joints, or if he's missing a couple. I'm not sure if he's the one running like a weirdo, or if he's just figured out the next stage of man's evolution.
It doesn't really matter what the aesthetics are, though. What matters is that it works for him. The 28-year-old is a two-time All-Star, and he's on track for his fifth straight season with an OPS+ over 100, and his third straight over 110. He's hit exactly 25 home runs for three straight years, and he's a plus runner with solid defensive skills. He's not great, but he's consistently good. Most teams would be happy to have him.
And now the Astros might trade him. From Buster Olney:
Sources: HOU shows willingness to trade Pence; rival executives expect he will move. Braves have prospects to make deal happen; we'll see.
Pence is easily the most popular Astro among the fans, and he's under team control for 2012 and 2013. And that makes what Olney tweeted one day earlier make a ton of sense:
Teams that talk to Astros about Hunter Pence walk away convinced it will take a major, major overpay to pry him away from Houston right now.
Pretend it's end times. Like, something from The Stand or The Road. And you have a backpack filled with delicious pound cake. You meet a guy who has a backpack filled with turnips, but he also has a can of whipped cream. Your first instinct is to ask politely for the can. Can't use it with those damned turnips. Just give up the can. You're not using it. Please? He'll refuse because he doesn't need to give it up, and whipped cream is pretty hard to come by in the apocalypse.
It's not really fair to describe the rest of the Astros as turnips. You can probably make some sort of liquor with turnips, so they have some use. Stop picking on turnips. But you get the idea. The Astros are right to ask for twelve prospects, six players to be named, and a refund for the money lost on the canceled Hunter Pence bobblecreepystare night. They don't have to trade him.
His value, though, might never be higher. The team control is enticing, and his .377 BAbip is really far above his career averages -- he's usually at a .310 or so. His batting average and on-base percentage have never been better. If there were a time to reap a bounty of young players, this might be it.
Using MLB Trade Rumors' spreadsheet of Ed Wade trades, it looks like Wade has done two star-for-bushel-of-prospect trades before:
- for , Bud Smith, and
- for , , , and
Polanco and Padilla did okay for the Phillies, but they weren't exactly franchise cornerstones. It's tough to grade Wade's trades on just a couple of deals from almost ten years ago, and it's also worth noting that a) Pence isn't nearly the star that those two were, and b) it's fun to mutter "grade Wade's trades" to yourself, over and over again while you wait for a bus.
So we have no idea what the Astros will think is a fair return for Pence. They should ask for a great-player package. But if they get a "good-player package" -- one of another team's top prospects, a second-tier guy, and maybe some filler -- maybe they should jump. Pence could be an Astro through 2013, but the Astros aren't likely to be good by then, and his value might be at its peak right now.