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With the approaching trade deadline comes the many varying rumors of teams discussing deals to make improvements on their rosters, as well as those of whom consider themselves out of playoff contention looking to deal for the future. The Red Sox currently find themselves at the top of the American League, where many had predicted they would be after the offseason acquisitions of both 1B Adrian Gonzalez and LF Carl Crawford. While Crawford has struggled at times and the pitching staff has been injured, the Sox still manage to be the first team in the AL to 60 wins, and despite the small lead they own over the Yankees, the Sox have also dominated their rivals in 2011, holding a strong 8-1 record against NY, including an impressive 6-0 mark at Yankee Stadium.
The deadline certainly looms large over most teams, as players from all across baseball hear of potential deals involving them, including Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence, a rumored target of those Red Sox. Interest in Pence is certainly understandable given the weakest aspect of the Sox is right field, where Pence could be a nice fit, but a deeper look into the player and team highlight reasons for and against making a deal for Pence.
One of the biggest flaws with your 2011 Boston Red Sox is the right field situation, and a player like Pence can solve that pretty quickly. Josh Reddick has been a success, but with limited time in the majors, he isn’t an ideal candidate to last the remainder of this season as a reliable offensive threat. Plus, being a left-handed hitter doesn’t help him in the slightest, as the Sox lineup is already a bit lefty-heavy.
Pence is batting .309 this season with Houston, with a solid 11 home runs and could be nicely slotted as a right-handed hitter into the sixth spot in the lineup between David Ortiz and Crawford. As a 28-year old, Pence is also a potential long term solution in right field if the Sox are willing to try and sign him beyond 2011. Many targets for the Red Sox have to deal with the complicated right field at Fenway Park, but Pence is an above average outfielder with a very strong throwing arm.
With all the good that comes with Hunter Pence, there’s also some bad. This season he has struggled with an awful strikeout to walk ratio, striking out 83 times in 94 games, while only walking 27 times on a bad Astros team. Pence has also spent his whole career in Houston, which raises the popular question of how a player of his stature would fit in a bigger market like Boston.
However, at the end of the day, Theo Epstein is going to have a tough time making a deal for Pence because of the asking price. General manager Ed Wade is likely to ask much more for Pence because he represents a large portion of the young talent in Houston. Parting with a star like Pence would be difficult if Houston wasn’t getting a top-notch package in return, and while the Sox have the farm system to make an offer, the smart move might to pursue a less expensive option to platoon in right field.
The price may be too steep for Pence or someone like Carlos Beltran, but there are plenty of other available right fielders who can provide enough at a lower price than him. The Red Sox have been tied to Chicago Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome, who if anything makes Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s name look relatively normal. The Sox have also looked into Kansas City right fielder Jeff Francoeur, who at a lower cost than Pence provides an even stronger throwing arm on defense. Ryan Ludwick’s name has also been tossed around due to the Jed Hoyer connection between Boston and San Diego. Any of these options are probably more likely and smarter for Theo Epstein over making a big deal for Hunter Pence.