PHILADEPHIA -- It surprised nobody Thursday when Carlos Beltran said the New York Mets never approached him about a trade to the Phillies.
If the Phillies plan to move top prospects for a corner outfielder, they want to move them for a player they control beyond this season -- not for a three-month rental like Beltran. That is why sources say Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence is the Phillies' top target. He cannot become a free agent until after the 2013 season.
FOXSports.com reported late Thursday night the Phillies have until Friday to strike a deal with Houston, otherwise the Astros will look elsewhere. The report said prospects Jarred Cosart and Jonathan Singleton are in the deal, while Domonic Brown is not.
Talks for Pence intensified Thursday afternoon.
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The price for Pence is steep, but it might be a price the Phillies must pay to add a much-needed right-handed bat to the middle of their lineup. Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. just watched his team score two runs and pick up 10 hits in a pair of losses this week to the San Francisco Giants, who beat the Phillies in last year's National League Championship Series. Amaro was trying hard to get Pence before those losses, but they might make him feel an even greater sense of urgency to make something happen.
Having Pence under the Phillies' control for two more seasons beyond 2011 could help Amaro stomach dealing some of his best prospects, especially if it puts the Phillies in a better position to win their second World Series in four seasons.
Pence would be an immediate upgrade in the Phillies outfield, although he has never had more than 25 home runs, 91 RBIs or 93 runs scored in a season. But Pence would be more of a complementary piece in Philadelphia, much like Jayson Werth was the previous three seasons.
He would help.
If the Phillies cannot acquire Pence, they are believed to be interested in White Sox outfielder Carlos Quentin, but he clearly is the Phillies' second choice.
The Padres have a couple of relief pitchers available: Heath Bell and Mike Adams. While the Phillies would love Bell, he becomes a free agent after the season. Adams does not, which means he makes more sense for the Phillies.
But it sounds like the Phillies might be making yet another significant deal with the Astros. They acquired Brad Lidge before the 2008 season and Roy Oswalt last July.
Pence could be next.