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MLB Trade Rumors: Where Will Hunter Pence End Up?

With Carlos Beltran off the market as of yesterday, the biggest trade chip who seems to still be out there is Astros outfielder Hunter Pence. Pence would be a short and long-term addition to any team who acquired him, as he went to arbitration for only the first time this past offseason. He would be under control of any team that acquired him through the 2013 season as a result. Pence is also having another great year at the plate, hitting .309/.356/.472 with 11 home runs, 62 RBI and 7 stolen bases.

Pence has been rumored to be headed any number of places, but here's my thoughts on his most likely destinations, in order of how likely I think they will be:

4. Atlanta Braves - This one seems like a long shot to me at this point, as the Braves appear to be reluctant to give up any of their top pitching prospects (Mike Minor, Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, and Randall Delgado). I have to imagine that for the Astros to move what would presumably be the face of their franchise, they are going to need someone to plug in immediately at the Major League level. It is possible that the Braves could build a package around low-level depth (players like Tyler Pastornicky and Christhian Betancourt), but I don't see the Astros doing it without that ready piece.

3. Cincinnati Reds - They clearly have the prospects that could be interesting to the Astros. I doubt highly that they would include Aroldis Chapman in any deal that does not include a high-end pitcher coming back, but I could see a catching prospect (either Mesoraco or Grandal), an infield prospect (Frazier or Alonzo), and a pitching prospect of some kind being worth doing. But the Reds may have fallen out of the race, and while Pence is under control for more than this year, it may not be worth gutting parts of the system to get him.

2. Boston Red Sox - They don't necessarily have a pressing need, as Josh Reddick has been filling in reasonably well in right field. But the Red Sox' system is surprisingly deep considering the trades they have completed in the past year. Complete speculation on my part, but a package involving a few of the following prospects could gain some steam with the Astros: Ryan Lavarnway, Anthony Ranaudo, Garin Cecchini, Bryce Brentz. The Astros appear to be aiming for young pitching, and Ranaudo, Chris Balcom-Miller, or Drake Britton could all potentially have interest. I don't think that the Red Sox will go this route though, as their more pressing need would probably be in the starting rotation.

1. Philadelphia Phillies - There has already been rumors of a package involving Jonathan Singleton, Jarred Cosart, and other players. Even understanding that Pence is under team control for two more seasons, I am really curious what else they would need to get besides those two prospects. The Phillies do have a couple more prospects that could interest the Astros, but I don't think that they'd be willing to give them all up for Pence.

Realistically, I think that this deal gets done at some point with Philadelphia, as I think Houston GM Ed Wade has backed himself into a corner and will have to deal Pence before the deadline. As the day progresses, it seems like more teams keep coming into the sweepstakes here, and Wade might do well to continue to take offers through the night and see if someone swoops in and goes completely overboard.

You can read more about the Pence trade rumors over at MLB Daily Dish.