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.