MLB Trade Rumors reported over the weekend that although Hunter Pence is set to test the free agent market following the 2013 season, he’d much rather work out an extension with the San Francisco Giants. The outfielder was traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the Bay area before last July’s non-waiver trade deadline. Jim Bowden of ESPN.com was the first to break the news of Pence’s wishes beyond 2013.
Through 101 games with the Phillies last season before he got traded, he was one of the few sources of power in a lineup that didn’t include Chase Utley or Ryan Howard very often. The 29-year-old hit .271/.336/.447 with 17 homers and 59 RBI in the hitter-friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park. However, once he landed in his new home at AT&T Park, he saw firsthand why this is one of the toughest places to hit, as he put together a .219/.287/.384 triple slash with 7 homers and 45 RBI in 59 games played.
Once Melky Cabrera went down with his 50-game suspension for PED usage, Giants GM Brian Sabean felt he needed to go and get another offensive threat to give Buster Posey some protection in the lineup. Pence became a perfect fit with power reputation, especially since he’d take Cabrera’s spot in right field.
In the postseason, Pence wasn’t exactly an offensive difference maker, but he was a contributor in the World Series with his .286/.313/.357 line; he also served as one of the team’s emotional leaders before and during each ballgame on their way to winning a second title in three years. While his leadership is something that holds value, I don’t think Brian Sabean will factor much of that into a multi-year deal after the 2013 season. In his last year of arbitration, Pence is due to earn $13.8 million, which could mean he may be seeking a deal worth around $15 million per season.
Will the Giants pay that much money for someone with the skill set of Hunter Pence? It will depend on how he performs this season. If he continues to try and do too much at the plate, Pence will have to either take a pay cut to stay by the Bay, or decide to take his talents elsewhere. What exactly does he need to do in order to have a successful year? He’ll need to cut down on his strikeouts and be more selective at the plate.
Since 2011, Pence has been walking at a 8.2% clip, which is a decent percentage, but he’ll need to push that rate closer to 10%, while learning not to force the issue at the plate in front of the home crowd. If he doesn’t get his pitch to hit, then he shouldn’t try to make something out of nothing. When he tries to do that, he strikes out more. His K-rate in 2012 was a career-high 21.1%, which included 60 whiffs in 59 regular season games played with the Giants. It continued in the postseason, as he struck out 17 more times in 15 October ballgames (62 ABs).
So, if Pence is able to cut down on his career-high strikeout total from 2012 and improve his walk rate, he’ll watch his batting average climb back up from the .253 mark it was at last season closer to his career average (.285 BA). As long as he stays within himself, he will continue to to be a 20-25 HR threat in the middle of San Francisco’s lineup.
However, even if he has a bounce back season, it won’t be worth it to the Giants to hand a 30-year-old (at this time next year) outfielder a multi-year contract for $15 million a season. Pence will try to capitalize on a weak outfield market in the 2014 off-season, especially since he’s ranked 10th on Tim Dierkes’ power rankings, with only Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo ahead of him. Despite that, I don’t anticipate San Francisco reaching into their pockets to overpay for his services, unless he does something extraordinary in 2013.
Thanks for reading! To Follow Matt’s posts at On The Way Home and Rising Apple, you can follow him on Twitter: @mmusico8. If you’d like to join On The Way Home as a staff writer, you can contact Matt at email@example.com.
The post Will San Francisco Giants Extend Outfielder Hunter Pence? appeared first on On The Way Home.