July 17, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Philadelphia Phillies right fielder Hunter Pence (3) at bat in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
Is Hunter Pence here to save the Giants? No, but the Black and Orange certainly made improvements at the trade deadline.
The MLB trade deadline has come and gone, and the San Francisco Giants have once again made a 'big spalsh' before time ran out. Nabbing Marco Scutaro a few days ago to help shore up the infield was a good move, but getting a two-time All-Star in Hunter Pence (even with a hefty pricetag) is a great move by the Black and Orange for a number of reasons.
First, let's start with Nate Schierholtz. Yes, he was the second longest tenured Giant aside from Matt Cain, probably played right field at AT&T Park better than almost anyone, and was a local product and fan favorite. But as McCovey Chronicles' Grant Brisbee put it, Pence is " Nate Schierholtz with an extra dozen home runs per year." Giving up Nate's defense (when he got playing time) will be erased but the uptick in offensive production brought by the 'praying mantis.' Sentimentality aside, Pence's arrival is a great thing for the Giants.
Speaking of offense, Pence's production has dropped a bit so far this year, batting .271 with a .336 OBP, 17 home runs and 59 RBI. Nevertheless, that immediately puts him atop the Giants heap in dingers, second in RBI, tied 7th in batting average and sixth in OBP. That's an improvement to say the least. His .241 average at hitter friendly Citizen's Bank Park compared to his .300 average on the road is a bit of a head scratcher, though that may just mean he's ripe for a change in scenery. Pence has a .329 average with 5 HR's and 10 RBI in 76 AB's at AT&T Park, so there's that too.
Financially, Pence is coming at a bit of a price. San Francisco will likely assume the majority of the $10.4 million he's owed the rest of this year, but will be arbitration eligible in 2013, meaning he's under Giants control. But with guys like Aubrey Huff, Freddy Sanchez, and the rest of Aaron Rowand's money coming off books for the 2013 season, San Francisco will have the wiggle room to pay Pence (if need be.)
The Mercury News' Tim Kawakami's rough estimate was about $30M coming off the books in the off-season, including the increases in pay for guys like Ryan Vogelsong, Matt Cain and Pablo Sandoval. That's not including Brian Wilson though, whom the Giants are paying $8.5 million to ride the pine this year. He will be a free agent next season. Contract extensions for players like Posey and Melky Cabrera are likely on the horizon, so that could play a factor down the line as well.
Prospects wise, Tommy Joseph was one of the brightest stars in the Giants farm system, though the Black and Orange seem to be set at the catcher position for a while with Buster Posey (knock on wood), and will likely need center fielder Gary Brown in the big leagues sooner than later. Single-A pitcher Seth Rosin remains an unknown commodity for the most part, but isn't seen to be a top prospect. Once again, advantage Giants from where I stand.
Some could view this as a reactionary move to the Los Angeles
Yankees Dodgers, whom after scooping up Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino look poised to make a serious playoff push. The Giants already have a $130 million-plus payroll, but won't be playing with the kind of monopoly money that L.A. will have to buy up talent, so will have to do their best to be smarter with their money. At least they've proven they aren't afraid to make a splash.
This certainly isn't a panic move, as GM Brian Sabean re-iterated on Tuesday. Pence can serve as somewhat of a 'safety net' if Melky doesn't return as a free agent. Short-term, Pence is here to make the offense better, help the Giants keep pace with the Dodgers, and hopefully do some damage in the postseason. Long-term is still a bit fuzzy, but if Pence can take care of business now, those issues could work themselves out this offseason.
This isn't a trade to be loved like Melkman for Jonathan Sanchez, and isn't a 'rental' deal like Carlos Beltran. It's somewhere in the middle, and I can deal with that.
For more discussion and analysis of the Pence trade and the Giants in general, head over to McCovey Chronicles.