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.