Rumours abound that the Pirates are heavily scouting Astros outfielder Hunter Pence in an attempt to steel their lineup for a run at the post-season. Exciting as it must be for the Pirates to be in a buying position as the trade deadline approaches, acquiring Hunter Pence is not a move they should pursue.
Hunter Pence is a good corner outfielder in the National League. Playing good defense and hitting for a little bit of power means Pence is good for about 3.5 WAR per season – he represents a pretty solid upgrade for the Pirates.
The real question for the Pirates is the cost. Pence is an above-average regular player but one with a few warning signs: his in-play average is much higher this year versus his career numbers and the relative hostility of PNC Park to right-handed hitters. Moving Pence from a hitter’s haven like Minute Maid Park to a more expansive home field could force his production down. His relative lack of patience and power could turn him to a pumpkin in no time.
With questions about his impact in mind, the Pirates need to carefully the weigh the price Houston demands. With Pence still arbitration eligible for two more years, the Pirates could have a viable corner outfielder to play alongside Andrew McCutchen. Or they could overpay for a present that never materializes, borrowing from a future with relative promise.
If the Pirates are serious about taking a run at the division title, they could find an equally valuable rental piece at a much lower cost. With young Alex Presley playing decently in his first cameo as an everyday player, the Pirates could address one of the gaping holes on the left side of their infield before breaking the bank for a player like Pence.