San Francisco Giants Ink Outfielder Hunter Pence to New Contract
This past weekend, the San Francisco Giants locked up pending free agent right fielder Hunter Pence to a new 5-year, $90 million contract. The 30-year old, two-time All-Star had expressed a strong interest in returning to the Giants after his contract was due to be up at season’s end, but talks throughout the season were minimal.
Late Friday night however, after a game in which the Giants beat the San Diego Padres 7-3 and Pence received the team’s Willie Mac award (named after Giants great Willie McCovey – an award given to the Giants player who demonstrates the spirit and leadership that was consistently shown by McCovey throughout his hall-of-fame career), rumors started to swirl around the clubhouse and on twitter that a deal had begun to take shape with the Giants and in the final stages were being finalized. The deal was officially announced and signed that Sunday.
Since being traded to the Giants from the Philadelphia Phillies midway through the 2012 season, Pence has installed himself as one of the core players and team leaders in the Giants’ clubhouse. His infectious energy and influential hustle play on the field is contagious; never more evident than during the Giants late 2012 postseason run which lead to them winning their second World Series title in three years. He is very well-respected amongst his teammates and has instantly become a fan favorite to the Giants Nations.
Resigning Pence was a no-brainer move the Giants Front Office had to make. From a baseball prospective, he was the best offensive player this season, batting with a .283/.339/.483 slash line, with 91 R, 178 H, 35 2B, 27 HR, 99 RBI, 22 SB, and an .822 OPS, leading the team in R’s, H’s, HR’s, RBI’s, and SB’s. He will hopefully continue to bring much needed offense to the Giants and help protect star catcher Buster Posey in the lineup, creating a viable offensive 1-2 punch. Pence is also the most durable player on the Giants, as he became the first Giants players since 1954 to start every game in a season.
Many of the industry folk, especially those who prescribe to the sabermetric philosophy, think that the Giants offered too many years on the deal and overpaid in resigning Pence. Many felt that Pence’s value was somewhere around 4-years, $50-$60 million. I’m in the minority on this one, as I don’t feel like the Giants over spent for Pence at all and may have even saved themselves some money on the backend by preventing Pence from hitting the open market. In a free agent class with shallow outfield depth and lack of power bats, it would not have surprised me one bit to see Pence get offers in the neighborhood of around 5-years, $110-$115 million, and if the Giants truly wanted to bring Pence back, they would obviously have had to match that. By signing Pence before his contract expired, the Giants could have potentially saved themselves around $20-$25 million. Additionally, with the contracts of starting pitchers Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum coming off their books, and after winning two of the last three World Series titles, the Giants had the money to spend.
The logic behind my thinking comes off the news that Cincinnati Reds center fielder Shin-Soo Choo and his agent, Scott Boras, think that they can command a $100+ million contract. If Choo and Boras think they can get that type of contract, with Choo having never made an All-Star game and is a year old than Pence (Choo – 31, Pence – 30), what would the market be for Pence? Statistically speaking, both Pence and Choo posted similar numbers this season, with Choo batting .285/.423/.462 with 107 R’s, 162 H, 34 2B, 21 HR, 54 RBI, 20 SB, and a .885 OPS.
With Pence now locked up, his $90 million contract now sets the market up nice for Choo and also this offseason’s prized bat, Boston Red Sox centerfield Jacoby Ellsbury.