Hunter Pence is more likely than ever to get dealt

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FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi is putting the odds of a Hunter Pence deal at better than 50/50 and says the Indians are still involved despite picking up Kosuke Fukudome earlier Thursday.

The Phillies and Braves have reportedly been the more intense pursuers of Pence, but many have inquired.  The Red Sox and Reds are among those doing their homework.  The Rangers, though, aren’t in the hunt at the moment.

The Astros reportedly backed out of a deal with the Phillies that would have netted them big first baseman Jonathan Singleton and top pitching prospect Jarred Cosart for Pence.  Still, it doesn’t sound as though the Phillies have given up on Pence yet.

The Braves have more to offer with a stable of young pitchers that includes Julio Teheran, Arodys Vizcaino, Randall Delgado and Mike Minor, but Teheran probably isn’t on the table and it’s doubtful the Braves would give up two of the others in order to get a deal done.

Speculation is that the Braves would send down Jason Heyward if they were able to land Pence to play right field.  Still, it’s worth wondering if that would really leave them any better off.  Heyward has hit .231/.306/.400 with four homers and 15 RBI in 130 at-bats since coming off the DL on June 15.  Pence is at .277/.336/.387 with two homers and 12 RBI in 119 at-bats over the same span.  Pence was certainly better during the first two months of the season, but Heyward was easily the superior player last year.

The Braves, though, would have room for both if they so desired.  Left fielder Martin Prado may frequently be needed at third base with Chipper Jones dinged up, and either Pence or Heyward could play some center when everyone is healthy.

The Astros want pitching, pitching and more pitching in return for Pence, and no team has more to offer than the Braves.  There’s still almost three days left for something to get done.

Robinson Cano hit his 300th home run last night

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Last night Robinson Cano hit a solo homer in the ninth inning of the Mariners’ loss to the Texas Rangers. It was his 22nd on the season. Though it was insignificant to the outcome of that game, it was significant to Cano: it was his 300th career homer.

While we’ve become accustomed to not caring much about home run milestones south of, say, 500, 300 homers for Cano is a big deal, as he’s only the third second baseman to cross that threshold in baseball history. The other two: Jeff Kent, at 377, and Rogers Hornsby at 301.

Cano, who turns 35 next month, has a career line of .305/.354/.495 and 1,179 RBI, 512 doubles and 33 triples to go with those bombs. He’s in his 13th big league season and still has six more years left on his deal with the Mariners. He’s averaged 24 homers a year since coming to the Mariners. While he’ll obviously trail off at some point — and while great second baseman’s have this weird habit of just suddenly falling off a cliff — it’s highly likely that he’ll finish his career as the all-time home run leader among second baseman. If he remains healthy he should also get over 3,000 hits in his career.

Cooperstown, here he comes.

Reds sign catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year deal

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Mark Sheldon of MLB.com reports that the Reds have signed catcher Tucker Barnhart to a four-year contract extension. The terms: $16 million total, with a $7.5 million club option for the 2022 season that has a $500,000 buyout. He also received a $1.75 million signing bonus.

The deal buys out all three of his arbitration years — he was going to be eligible for the first time this offseason — and the first year of his potential free agency. The club option buys a second. Barnhart made $575,000 this season.

Barnhart, 26, is finishing his second season as the Reds primary catcher. This year he’s hitting .272/.349/.399 with six homers and 42 RBI in 113 games. For his career he has a line of .257/.328/.366 in 330 major league games. His real value is defensive, however. He leads the National League in caught stealing percentage and number of base stealers caught (31-for-70, 44%) and leads all players at any position in the league in defensive WAR according to Baseball-Reference.com.