Astros now showing “willingness” to trade Hunter Pence

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On June 28, Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com heard from sources that the Astros were “unlikely” to trade outfielder Hunter Pence at this summer’s deadline. That remained the line of thinking (and the line of reporting) among most rumor-producing baseball writers through the first three weeks of July.

Until this evening.

According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the Astros are now showing a “willingness” to trade Pence and rival executives now “expect” that he will be moved.

The Braves and Pirates have already expressed interest, and the list of suitors will only grow as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.

By far Houston’s best player, Pence has hit .315/.356/.478 with 11 home runs and 61 RBI through 399 plate appearances this season. He’s not overly smooth defensively, but he has decent range and a strong arm.

Pence is making $6.9 million this season and could reach $9 million or more next year via salary arbitration. The Astros are also likely to demand a hefty package of young talent in return. A deal isn’t going to come easy, but Pence is now the second-best available bat on this year’s trade market behind the Mets’ Carlos Beltran.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.