Astros right fielder Hunter Pence finds his name being thrown around the MLB rumor mill at a rapid pace — more so than ever — as of Thursday night, with the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline just three days away.
Although the 28-year-old Pence has generated a significant amount of interest from playoff-caliber teams over the last month, an MLB source told joltleft.com Thursday night that negotiations to acquire the two-time All-Star continue to intensify.
The source pinpoints the San Francisco Giants finalizing a trade earlier in the day to acquire six-time All-Star outfielder Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets in exchange for top-tier pitching prospect Zack Wheeler as a major contributing factor.
At this point, the source identified the Atlanta Braves, Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers as the teams who have checked in on Pence.
However, Philadelphia and Atlanta are the front-runners to potentially acquire Pence, with the Phillies remaining the most aggressive suitor.
Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reported Thursday night that the Astros have set a Friday deadline with the Phillies to strike a deal that would likely be built around sending highly-rated prospects Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart to Houston as part of a trade package for Pence.
If Philly can’t meet the asking price, Astros general manager Ed Wade reportedly will move forward and negotiate more seriously with other suitors.
Atlanta is likely next in line.
FOX Sports reports that Houston and Philadelphia are not matching up at this point due to ongoing discussions of a third or possibly fourth player in the deal, while Atlanta has place “more restrictions” on dealing highly-touted prospects to the Astros.
The MLB source told joltleft.com that Braves general manager Frank Wren refuses to include pitching prospect Julio Teheran, who entered the 2011 campaign rated No. 5 on Baseball America’s 22nd annual Top 100 prospects list, in a package for Pence.
ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reported Thursday night via Twitter that Houston is “mulling” over a significant Braves’ offer for Pence built around “highly-regarded” prospect, which doesn’t include Teheran.
At this point, if the Astros elect to trade Pence, who’s under club control through 2013, it will either be to Philadelphia or Atlanta.
There’s still a possibility of Wade and the Astros holding onto Pence for the remainder of the season in order to explore additional trade scenarios during the offseason or simply to keep him over the long-run and find ways to build a better team around him.
Pence represents the top right-handed bat on the market — something both the Phillies and Braves want to add down the stretch.
With the deadline to complete trades on Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET, teams interested in Pence need to pull the trigger and finalize a deal, or risk missing out on other available right-handed bats, such as Ryan Ludwick, B.J. Upton and Carlos Quentin.
Houston has maintained a strong position regarding Pence, a big-time fan favorite, over the last month, stating their need to be “overwhelmed” and “blown away” in order to agree to a trade.
Although multiple reports have stated Pence will likely stay in Houston for the remainder of the season, he isn’t deemed “untouchable,” meaning the Astros would make a trade for the right package.
Traditionally, general managers keep an open mind, listen to offers and make tough decisions on the verge of the trade deadline.
Ultimately, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Astros trade Pence to Philadelphia, Atlanta or a sleeper team, or decide to keep him.
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