Major League Baseball's trading deadline is fast approaching, but is still a little more than a week away. That week could be critical in determining what the Phillies, currently 13.5 games behind the Nationals in the National League East and 10 games behind the Braves for the second N.L. wildcard spot, decide on how to proceed with moving or retaining coveted outfielders Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence. If Philadelphia wants to move Pence, ESPN's Jayson Stark thinks the Pirates could be a suitor.
He can't be a free agent until after next season, so this is the optimal time to move him. But he and Carlos Ruiz are their only productive right-handed bats. And if they deal Pence and Shane Victorino, it would mean having to reconstruct their entire outfield by next Opening Day. So if the Phillies have a rough week, they'll almost certainly listen on Pence in the days before the deadline. But they'd need a major haul in return to pull the trigger. One club that could make a run at Pence: the Pirates.
Pence is having a productive season so far. He's hitting .277 with 17 homers, 57 RBIs and an .814 OPS. He also a .325 hitter at PNC Park and has five home runs, 22 RBIs and an .890 OPS there in 33 games. If he could bring that type of punch to Pittsburgh, he'd really help give the Bucs some stability in a corner outfield spot currently filled by guys like Alex Presley, Garrett Jones and converted infielder Drew Sutton, who, despite flashing a hot bat, has been struggling in the field.
It's worth noting that Stark isn't reporting that the Bucs are pursuing Pence just yet, but simply pointing out that if the Phillies are active in trying to move the 29-year-old, the Pirates could be one of the better fits for him on the market. Something to keep an eye on.