Domonic Brown is 23 years old. He's batting .247 with 5 homers and 18 RBIs in 2011. His .338 on-base percentage is equal to Ryan Howard's and ahead of Jimmy Rollins'. He also sees 4.08 pitches per plate appearance, good for 34th amongst players with 200 or more plate appearances (ahead of Andrew McCutchen and the aforementioned Mr. Howard). He was Keith Law's third-ranked prospect coming into the season.
Hunter Pence is 28 years old. He's batting .309 with 11 homers and 61 RBIs in 2011. His .356 on-base percentage ranks 50th amongst qualified major league hitters, which would place him behind only Chase Utley, Shane Victorino and Carlos Ruiz on the Phillies, and he's a two-time All-Star who is under team control until 2013.
I love Domonic Brown. Not as much as Mike Meech does, but close. That being said, I'd trade him for Hunter Pence.
Editor's note: This is implying a straight-up Brown-for-Pence deal, not any of these psychotic three-for-one offers that are suddenly popping up all over the Internet.
Domonic Brown will grow up to become a successful baseball player -- probably a very good one -- but the Phillies are stuck; they need to win now. Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, while still productive, have seen their best days. Placido Polanco, Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee aren't getting any younger. Roy Oswalt, Raul Ibanez and Brad Lidge are all on the way out the door.
It's not an old team, but it's not a young one either, and it could use a jolt. Charlie Manuel, in particular, has been vocal about his desire to add another slugger to the order, preferably a right-handed one; the Phillies as a whole are batting .237 versus left-handed pitching and .242 as right-handed batters. Pence is probably the best bat on the market, especially considering that he's not a rental.
Ruben Amaro Jr. is not a particularly patient man. For better or worse, he tends to sets the market price for free agents by jumping on desired players like Raul Ibanez and Placido Polanco as soon as possible. He also doomed anyone interested in Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder this offseason by locking up Ryan Howard with a large, lengthy (and probably unwise) extension.
So the fact that he's waiting on Pence, that he hasn't consented to move Brown yet, tells me he's not particularly interested in the Astros' demands. He must think that Ed Wade will crack and decide that Jonathan Singleton and Jarred Cosart are a reasonable return for the outfielder.
And maybe he will; Ed Wade's made his fair share of bad trades before. But if Houston doesn't bite, I think the Phillies should concede. Amaro's aggressiveness, for the most part, has paid off thus far (Lee and Halladay have been pretty cool), and he knows Ben Francisco and John Mayberry can't be the only right-handed outfield "threats" on a championship contender.
Time to pull the trigger, Rube. Top prospects come and go, but championships last forever.