PHILADELPHIA - JUNE 24: Domonic Brown #9 of the Philadelphia Phillies gets a one-out single to right against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the ninth at Citizens Bank Park on June 24, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Phillies defeated the Athletics 1-0. (Photo by Len Redkoles/Getty Images)
Today, ESPN's Jayson Stark wrote a piece about players who were popular targets at the trade deadline, giving a status update for the ones he considered to be the top five available. Of these, Hunter Pence was #1, and according to Stark, the "Pirates and Indians had peeled off after hearing the price tag". Closing the door on Pence himself doesn't necessarily mean that we can't exploit the situation to our benefit, however. Stark also wrote the following:
The Phillies initially offered their two best prospects, pitcher Jarred Cosart and first baseman Jonathan Singleton, and were told that wasn't enough. The Phillies then offered to include their right fielder, Domonic Brown . But the Astros , according to one team that spoke with them, would prefer to spin Brown elsewhere for multiple prospects than take him themselves.
So both clubs have been contacting other teams, trying to construct a creative enough deal to work for everybody. According to an official of one club that got drawn into those talks, the chances of that happening are "50-50." But it sure won't be because they aren't actively trying.
Brown entered the year as one of the best hitting prospects in baseball. Baseball America ranked him as the #4 prospect in the game , behind only Bryce Harper , Mike Trout , and Jesus Montero . Subscribers can read their glowing review of his abilities here (a few highlights: "a physical specimen"..."draws comparisons to a young Barry Bonds "..."creates incredible bat speed"..."has a relatively short stroke with few holes"..."has above-average speed and the strongest outfield arm in the system"..."a future all-star"). It's hard to get much better than that.
Brown broke his hamate bone this spring and had it surgically removed, putting him on the shelf for the start of the season. You may recall that Pedro Alvarez also broke his hamate bone in college - that was the injury that allowed him to drop in the draft to our pick. It's a fairly common injury that's easily corrected with surgery, and it generally has little in the way of long-term consequences for a player's career. Inconveniently enough for the Phillies, however, it does tend to limit a player's power production for the year (give or take) following the injury. As such, while Brown has been fairly productive for them since returning from the disabled list (a 103 OPS+ in 204 PA), he hasn't been able to perform at the peak of his abilities, leading to their interest in Pence.
A 103 OPS+ may not be world-beating production, but it's a substantial upgrade on what we're getting from Lyle Overbay right now. Acquiring Brown would allow us to upgrade the present team by moving Jones to first base and replacing Overbay's limp bat with Brown's superior one, while also adding a potential long-term contributor to the major league roster at an area of need. We currently have a substantial amount of pitching depth in our minor league system, but relatively few potential impact bats. Sending several of our better young arms to the Astros in exchange for Brown is a move that could help serve everyone's best interests. I hope that Stark's report is correct, and that Huntington is willing to consider this opportunity.
Update : According to Buster Olney , the Phillies are unwilling to include Brown in a deal for Pence. Who's right? No way to know, this time of year.