As the Pittsburgh Pirates leave town I'm reminded of the last player the Atlanta Braves acquired from them via trade. He's the same player who has put up an OPS 100 points lower in a Braves uniform than he did in a Pirates uniform. Nate McLouth hasn't been the same since he came to Atlanta, and that has me worried that acquiring a player like Hunter Pence might have the same result.
I do believe Pence is more talented than McOut, but neither player ever played on contending teams. McLouth spent four and half years on a Pirates team that was never better than fifth in their division. Pence has spent four and half years on an Astros team that has never been better than third in their division, which was the only year during that time the team was over .500.
It wasn't McLouth's fault that he was on a bad team, and it's not Pence's fault he has been on bad teams, but the fact remains that they were on non-winning ball clubs, in cities where there was no real pressure or expectation to win. Like McLouth before his arrival in Atlanta, Pence has never felt real pressure to win during a pennant race. And he would be thrust into the middle of a heated pennant race on a team that would be counting on him for a high level of production.
There are those who will point to some part of his character or aspect of effort in Hunter's playing style that would lead one to believe that he's simply a winner, who just happens to be on a bad team, but when he's finally on a good team, he'll be a player of the same caliber. Remember, that's what a lot of people thought about McLouth. It's something to keep in mind.
Meanwhile, the Phillies seem to be the current front-runner for Pence, but the Astros have put a deadline of Friday on the negotiations, by which time they will need to have reached a deal, or the 'Stros will move on to other teams, such as the Braves, who are apparently "placing 'more restrictions' on the prospects they would move."
It's gonna be a crazy day!
Apparently Buster Olney and I were on the same wavelength this morning. Here is the money quote from his Friday morning article:
It's worth taking a big-picture look at Pence: He's 28 years old; he's eligible for free agency after the 2013 season; he'll probably make something in the range of $20-25 million over the next couple of seasons. His numbers:
Batting average .309 (Ranks 18th in the majors)
On-base percentage .356 (50th in the majors)
Slugging percentage .472 (54th in the majors)
It's possible that his production from this year has been diminished by the weak lineup around him. It's also possible that he's having his best season because the Astros are constantly getting blown out and opposing pitchers find no tangible risk in throwing the ball over the plate to any Houston hitter (when I covered the Padres in 1993, Phil Plantier mashed 34 homers and drove in 100 runs because of this; San Diego lost 101 games that year).