So the Carlos Beltran sweepstakes is over, with the defending champs receiving a much-needed offensive boost and the Mets finally done with Beltan’s bloated contract (kind of). The real intrigue, however, is not where Beltran ended up, but rather what happens to the trade market now that he is off the table. If you’re Astros GM Ed Wade, that means your phone just got a lot busier.
With Beltran gone, and Colby Rasmus, too, Hunter Pence becomes the last big bat left on the market, and all the teams who missed out on Beltran are reportedly turning their attention to Pence. Most notably, NL East foes the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies, have been noted by baseball insiders around the league, as leading the race now for Pence’s services. Given Wade’s history with the Phillies and his willingness to trade with them (Michael Bourn, Roy Oswalt, Brad Lidge), it seems a likely destination that Pence would end up in Philadelphia. Pence would likely split time, or perhaps start right away, over Domonic Brown, who has struggled to provide much of an offensive spark after battling injuries early in the season. According to ESPN insiders, Wade had a deal in place with the Phillies, but backed off at the last minute. Perhaps he thinks he can pull more out of another team as desperation grows with the impending deadline.
The Braves also make a lot of sense for Pence, and would benefit much more than the Phillies. Since Martin Prado has moved to third base, the rest of the outfielders currently on the Braves roster (other than Jason Heyward) have 14 HR and 49 RBI on the year … combined. Pence currently has 11 HR and 62 RBI on the year, while batting over .300.
Two other teams have also been thrown into the mix, as well: Cincinnati Reds and Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox have always been quick to pull the trigger on a big move at the deadline, and have shown in the past that they’re willing to move big prospects (Hanley Ramirez for Josh Beckett). The Reds, likewise, are looking to retain their division crown and make another playoff push. They’re trying to move fast, too, because at fourth place in the division, they’re chances are quickly slipping away.
And lastly, there is always a wildcard that could be thrown in at the last minute. The Pirates seemed to be the early favorites, and with a younger core would probably be willing to deal some of their prospects in order to make a run at the playoffs this season. The Rangers have been thrown into every trade rumor, it seems, and are always looking for more bats, though Pence seems an unlikely fit.
The reality is, Pence is getting moved. The Astros have a swollen payroll for a horrible team, and Pence is never going to be more valuable. If you’re the Astros, you take the money and run. The question now is: who’s willing to mortgage the future to get him?