By Danny Knobler
The Phillies have acquired outfielder Hunter Pence from the Astros, sources told CBSSports.com Friday night.
The deal was described by two sources as "very close," and was expected to be announced later in the evening.
Pence, a 28-year-old two-time All-Star, gives the Phillies the strong outfield bat that manager Charlie Manuel has been asking for. Pence hit .308 with 62 RBI in 100 games this year for the Astros.
While Pence isn't as dynamic a player as Carlos Beltran, the outfielder the Giants got this week from the Mets, he fits the Phillies' pattern of acquiring players they can control past the end of the year. Pence can't become a free agent until the end of the 2013 season. That's why the Phillies were willing to pay a bigger price for him than they would have for Beltran.
Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro also has a history of being able to make deals with Astros GM Ed Wade. The two worked together when Wade was with the Phillies, and last year they engineered the trade that sent Roy Oswalt to Philadelphia.
First baseman Jonathan Singleton, who was pulled out of Friday night's game at Class A Clearwater in the eighth inning, is thought to be one of the players going to Houston in the trade. Pitcher Jarred Cosart, who starred in the All-Star Futures Game, was also thought to be in it. CSN Philadelphia reported that minor-league pitcher Josh Zeid and a player to be named will complete the four-player package.
Pence started for the Astros Friday night, but was pulled out of the game in the fifth inning.
The Braves had also tried to get Pence, but they weren't willing to surrender any of their top pitching prospects. The Phillies, who valued Pence more, were willing to come up with the players to convince the Astros to make the deal.
The Phillies originally expected that Domonic Brown could take over in right field this year, after they allowed Jayson Werth to leave for Washington as a free agent. But Brown got hurt in spring training and has struggled since then, and Manuel told reporters Friday afternoon that he would be better off developing in the minor leagues.
Earlier this week, the Phillies were still trying to decide whether to prioritize an outfielder or bullpen help. They decided to make Pence their top target, in part because they believe the bullpen will be strengthened in the playoffs by the addition of whichever starter they don't use in their postseason rotation (either Vance Worley or Oswalt).
The big question then was whether the Astros would truly consider dealing Pence, who is a favorite of outgoing Houston owner Drayton McLane. At one point this week, Astros officials were telling friends with other teams that they were much more likely to trade Pence this winter.
Once Beltran was dealt to the Giants on Wednesday, however, the Astros realized that the time to maximize Pence's value was now. Incoming owner Jim Crane intends to start a complete rebuild in Houston, likely dropping the Astros' payroll to around $60 million next year. So moving Pence, who makes $6.9 million this year and will be due for an arbitration raise, began to make more sense.
The Astros have also shopped center fielder Michael Bourn (the Reds are interested), and starting pitchers Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. But Pence was always the one who would bring the biggest return.
The Braves move on to other targets. They could try to make a deal for White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, but the Sox are believed to be asking for the same high-end pitching prospects that the Braves refused to deal for Pence. Atlanta could also step up efforts to get Ryan Ludwick from the Padres, or potentially try to get B.J. Upton from the Rays.
Ken Rosenthal of Foxsports.com first reported that the Phillies and Astros were close to a deal.
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