It’s only been a day or two since Buster Olney reported that the Astros would listen to offers for Hunter Pence, but in that time there has been more chatter about him than almost any player on the market. But he may not be on the market at all, actually: Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald was told by a source that Pence won’t be moved by the Astros.
It could be that everyone realized that he wasn’t quite the prize everyone made him out to be. Oh, he’s good. He’s the best hitter the Astros have. But because he was a super two, he has two more rounds of arbitration and could make as much as $9-10 million in 2012 and more again in 2013, sort of killing that “he’s young, cheap and controlled” narrative. It’s also possible that people looked at his splits and realized that Minute Maid Park has been very very good to him. If so, the haul the Astros might have expected may not be all that realistic.
It’s also possible, however, that Ed Wade is stuck as a lame duck GM, with new ownership in the offing but not yet in power, and that he has no mandate to trade Pence. Or it could be something else. One never knows at this time of year.
But if Silverman is right, we’re back to where we were when the week began: Carlos Beltran as the best bat available and then a wide, wide chasm between him and the number two guy.
On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”
There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.
It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:
On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.
“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”
One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.
None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”