Pirates Eyeing Hunter Pence

The Pirates have scouted Astros outfielder Hunter Pence with the trade deadline in mind, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.  The Astros hosted the Bucs over the weekend, losing two of three.  Yesterday morning, Pence noted that the possibility of being traded is completely out of his hands.  At .320/.363/.490, he makes a coveted trade target in a market thin on bats.

Pence said before yesterday's game that everyone's been talking about the Pirates, who are a half game out in the NL Central with over 40% of the season remaining.  On Friday, ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the Astros would have to be "overwhelmed" to part with Pence.  I imagine Astros GM Ed Wade would require even more from the Pirates for the 28-year-old, since they'd have to compete against him through the 2013 season.  Plus, the Bucs' top prospects are not close to the Majors, so they might be a tough sell to the Astros' fanbase.  The two division rivals haven't matched up on a significant trade in a decade, when the Astros acquired Pirates closer Mike Williams for Tony McKnight.  That deal was authored by Gerry Hunsicker and Dave Littlefield.

Biertempfel mentions one intriguing possibility, which I tossed out there a week ago: Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez.  The former Pirate could provide a big-time offensive boost from the hot corner for the season's final two months.  One issue: on June 7th, Ramirez's agent Paul Kinzer explained that Ramirez has a full no-trade clause and doesn't want to go anywhere.  Kinzer did leave the door open a crack, though.  And Pirates GM Neal Huntington told Biertempfel in a general sense that "no-trade clauses are often used as leverage," unless a player flat-out doesn't want to be dealt to a particular club.  The other issue might be negotiating away Ramirez's $16MM club option for 2012, which vests upon a trade.

The Pirates have checked in on the Athletics' Josh Willingham and Conor Jackson, tweeted ESPN's Jerry Crasnick last night.  For more players the team could pursue, check out my post from a week ago.

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