As the San Francisco Giants start to pick through the multi-vehicle car wreck that was their 2013 Major League season, questions start to pop up.
A lot of questions.
Like, what exactly is the Giants front office's plan going forward? (Quickly followed by crossed fingers and toes that the team's brain trust is actually developing a plan.) Other questions abound: which players will stay put and which players will be thanked and then tossed out the back door?
If things are done correctly, that back door should see a lot of business.
Take the Hunter Pence situation. Apparently the Giants are preparing to offer the soon-to-be free agent right fielder a contract extension. Pence made $13.8 million this season and looks to get a bump to the $17m range in a multi-year deal which should be in the four year range for a total of about $68 million.
All of which reminds me of another quirky free agent outfielder by the name of Aaron Rowand.
In 2008 at the age of 30, free agent Rowand signed a $60 million five year deal with the San Francisco Giants. He quickly underproduced and became the poster boy for bad baseball contracts. During the Giants' 2010 post season Rowand had a total of 11 at bats-- Buster Posey, on the other hand, had 59 ABs.
After the 2011 season San Francisco simply released Rowand and ate the final year of his contract, a nasty-tasting $11.52 million.
Hunter Pence is looking to cash in on his season and a third performance with the Giants, including playing right field in the 2012 World Series. At age 30, a comparison of Pence and Rowand shows striking similarities and some big differences.
Rowand had 1,001 games under his belt by the age of 30, coming up through the Chicago White Sox organization followed by a two year stint in Philadelphia. Pence will have about 1,060 games in the big leagues by the end of this season. He came up with the Houston Astros and also spent part of two seasons with the Phillies just before joining the Giants.
At age 30, Rowand's career OPS was .789; Pence will have a career OPS of about .814 when this season ends. On the field both players are from the run-hard-and-hit-the-wall-school of outfielding.
The big difference is at age 30 Hunter Pence will have 164 home runs to Rowand's 106, and Pence will have almost 200 more career RBI's than Rowand-- a projected 610 to 417. So maybe the biggest difference between the two players is power. But one similarity may be more important than anything else: age.
While thirty isn't over the hill for a talented run-producing hitter like Hunter Pence, the far side of a three or four year deal certainly is. The question comes down to this: how soon will his playing skills start to diminish? And at 32, 33, and 34 years old can he make the needed adjustments at the plate? Some do, and some do not.
In terms of replacing Pence, forget about descriptions of the 2013 free agent market as "limited". I haven't seen a year yet where that market was described as "rich with many talented baseball players who can pitch the ball and hit the ball." That simply doesn't happen.
So, sign Pence or don't sign him? Hunter Pence is ultimately a dead end-- part Aubrey Huff, part Aaron Rowand and on the wrong side of 30 for a multi-year contract. Forward looking teams like the Atlanta Braves, the Tampa Bay Rays, the Oakland A's, and the St. Louis Cardinals don't sign aging players with mid-range skills like Hunter Pence. Neither should the Giants.
And all of that may be academic. Unless the Giants are prepared pay the projected market price for Pence, I can't believe he won't opt to hit free agency. I also think the same of Tim Lincecum-- why would either of these players not test the free agent pool?
Here's an intriguing side note on several other available players.
Atlanta catcher Brian McCann will likely enter free agency and that could provide an interesting option for a team that, say, has an established young catcher they want to move to another position.
McCann is one of the few catchers in the game that regularly delivers power at the plate: in eight consecutive years, 2006-13, McCann hit 20 or more home runs as a member of the Atlanta Braves. McCann is 29 years old and his career OPS is .823. He is known as a smart defensive catcher and a team leader.
MLBTradeRumors.com put McCann's projected contract at $16-17 million a year for maybe four or five years-- within easy reach of the Giants.
But back to reality. There's little doubt in my mind that Buster Posey will be the starting catcher for the Giants the next five+ years. But what if... ?
What if Posey moved to third base, and Pablo Sandoval was either traded or moved to first base with Brandon Belt going to left field? With the Giants scheduled to play twenty inter-league games in 2014, McCann would have ample opportunity to DH. And with the new and improved Hector Sanchez to back him up behind the dish McCann becomes a viable alternative for change.
Two final notes on available players.
No doubt the San Francisco front office will find it irresistable to invoke the team's $6.5 million option on Ryan Vogelsong. Simply because that's a cheap price to pay for maybe catching some lightning in a bottle (dammit!). I would much rather see that six mil go towards the power hitters and reliable starting pitchers the San Francisco Giants will certainly need next season.
Let's understand something really important about 2014.
The Giants will not just be competing against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West next year. The Arizona Diamondbacks are competitive right now. The D-Backs will finish in 2nd place in the NL West this season, some five games ahead of the Giants. Right now, Arizona's run differential is -5. San Francisco's run differential is -61.
This isn't about the Los Angeles Dodgers. This is about rebuilding a winning team to take the National League West in 2014.
I think the window Sabean was talking about was pitching. Right now the Giants offense is good enough...if you have good pitching. It's a deep draft and tons of pitching. I don't think it would be wise to re-sign Timmy. Good teams would value the supplemental first round pick. Crick was a supp. first round pick. I'd say package some kids including Crick to get David Price and give him the Lincecum money. Everybody is bitter about the Wheeler trade only because what CB produced. Which was nothing. I think Crick is good but has serious control problems. The Giants missing piece isn't Ellsbury or Choo...it's front line pitching. Will the trade deplete the farm...not if you let Timmy go and use the pick on our strength which is drafting pitchers.
Thanks for your Response. I think your right that Ellsbury would have been a great acquisition for the Giants this season, but if you think Sabean overpaid Pence wait until you see what Jacoby gets. I've read he figures to get 5 years $100 Million+. When you think about how much more durable Pence has been, and that Ellsbury would have cost the Giants draft pick compensation as well I have to
Wow! Your Brian McCann theory blows me away. In no way is McCann a feasible option over Pence. Let's start with the fact that Hunter Pence wants to stay in San Francisco, and that if McCann said he wanted to go to San Francisco rather than an AL team were he can conveniently DH that he would be crazy. Your Posey to third base, proposal seems pretty complicated, and what is your plan to replace Pence in outfield??? No way man! Your assumption on Timmy seems a little less thought out as well. Last time I checked any struggling starter that is offered a one year deal of $14 Million to pitch a majority of your starts in AT&T Park, is one that you might not want to refuse. Very few other parks in baseball are as friendly to pitch in, and $14 Million to try and figure things out... and then be able to hit free agency without draft pick compensation sounds pretty good.
You make some great points as far as the need for starting pitching. Somehow this off-season San Francisco needs to find two quality starters to follow Cain and Bumgarner, and then find a fifth starter who can at least put up a .500 W/L year.
I disagree with your statement that "Right now the Giants offense is good enough". That offense was one of the primary reasons the Giants finished 76-86 this season-- even with outstanding pitching a team rarely makes the post season scoring an average of 3.69 runs per game.
The Giants are celebrated for winning their recent World Series Championships with pitching. But in 2010 they scored 4.30 runs per game and in 2012 4.43 runs per game (and that was barely enough).
I really agree with your trade scenarios. Brian Sabean needs to rediscover the the art making major trades. And then make some.
Have to think they might have got a deal. Hopefully he stays healthy and it doesn't end up Rowandesque for you guys.
Thanks for posting, BB!
As I wrote, the McCann scenario was in the "what if" category. It actually wasn't a "proposal" it was speculation. I'm also speculating that it would be awesome if the Giants somehow signed Jacoby Ellsbury.
Hell, I'll make that a full out proposal!
I also wrote that Buster Posey is and will be the starting catcher for the Giants for a long time.
Pence just signed a $90 million 5 year deal ($18m a year) with the Giants, which means he will be 36 years old the final year. If the Giants continue to be aggressive in rebuilding this team, Pence fits in nicely in the #5 slot in the batting order, but San Francisco needs a lot more offensive to win.
Remember, Hunter Pence played all season and the Giants are finishing 17 games out 10 games under .500.
There's another point I made a few blogs ago. Free agent players virtually always sign with the team that offers them the most money. It doesn't matter to a free agent pitcher or hitter if the team offering the most money has a "hitters' " ball park or a "pitchers' " ball park.
If it did matter then no free agent pitcher would ever sign with Boston, the Cubs, Philadelphia, etc. And they do all the time. And no free agent hitter would ever sign with the Dodgers, St. Louis, Atlanta, etc. And they do all the time.
The other thing is: have you ever heard a soon-to-be free agent player not say to the local media "I really want to stay with the [Giants, Atlanta, Tampa Bay, the Yankees, etc.]"? They always say "I like it here"-- it's PR, it's what their agents tell them to say.
I noted above that the only way the Giants could sign Pence is if they met his projected market price of around $17 million per year on a multi-year deal. Well they did that and more-- at $18 million and five years they probably overpaid a bit.
As I said, I like Pence's bat and glove, so now let's hope he helps lead the 2014 team to another post season!
Then we agree Giants55.
As I wrote above, the biggest difference between Aaron Rowand and Hunter Pence is power. And you are correct, in his 11 year career, Pence has hit 25 or more HRs four times (but also whacked 22 in 2011 and 24 in 2012).
Rowand helped lead the Chicago White Sox to win the 2005 World Series, and went to the post season in 2007 with the Phillies (when he had a tremendous season: .889 OPS, 27 HRs, 105 RS, and 89 RBI). Which was a big reason why the Giants signed him to a multi-year contract the next year.
I like Hunter Pence, and I like his bat and glove. But what I like better is for the Giants to make the best decisions they can to field the best team they can over the next five years and beyond.
@RDyer @JustinLove1 Giants need one frontline starter. I think they will trade for one. David Price or Yovani Gallardo it doesn't matter. In terms of the next 5 yr window you need 3 aces. 4/5 starters are just one yr deals to get to the crop of elite minor league pups who wont be traded. Giants are good at finding diamonds in the rough/dumpster dives...Vogey, Guadin, and Petit. Those guys aren't long term solutions. If you can contend with Petit as your 5th starter you can make a play at the trade deadline if you want. This offseason the number one goal is to trade for a number one starter. I like Price because he is a power lefty but, you need another ace along with Cain and Bum. I think the Giants will go big and make a statement. Fourth and fifth starters will be one yr deals until the top pitching prospects will be ready for 2015. Top 3 in the rotation are making serious coin so you need two cheap starters anyway.
The Giants didn't make the playoffs but, the big blow was losing Pagan! I don't know the numbers but, with him back at the top of the order I believe the Giants have enough offense right now to win. Pablo will be hungry(for money not food!), Belt continues to improve. Posey struggled too this year after signing big contract. There is a hole in LF. I still would rather put my money into pitching. It's the Giants MO...pitching and defense. The offense wasn't great but, the pitching and defense was ugly!