The Future of Hunter Pence: Play, Release, or Trade?


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Episode Transcript

Benjamin: Welcome back to For The Fans By The Fans podcast, where we bring you your weekly dose of all things, San Francisco Giants, baseball from the Fan's perspective. I'm a lifelong giants fan and your host Benjamin Shapiro. As the giant sink to five games below, 500 and in fourth place and the NL West. It's just me sneaking in an extra podcast before the end of the month today. But before we talk about a decision that will indicate which direction the Giants franchises headed, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you on behalf of our friends at Fanatics. Fanatics is the global leader in licensed sports merchandise. They have the world's largest collection of sports apparels from the leagues, teams and players you love. So if you love the giants or this podcast, click the link in our show notes or head over to FTF BTF.com/fanatics, and they'll kick us a couple of bucks to help pay for the production of this show when you buy your giants. 

Benjamin: Okay. Just me today, folks, and I want to talk to you about something that I think is an indication of which direction the giants season and franchise is going to head. As I mentioned right now, after about a third of the season, the giants have sunk to five games below 500. The pitching staff is a mess over the last five games. They're average era is seven point two eight. The starters have gone for innings pitched on average and the hitting has been slightly above average, so I wanted to spend some time talking to you about what direction the giants are going to be heading and what their chances are to actually make the playoffs and win the world series. The first thing I looked at, I went to fangraphs today and I looked at the predictions that fangraphs has for the giants to win a world series and according to them they have a five percent chance to win the division and a point one percent chance to win the world series this year. 

Benjamin: To put that in perspective, when the giants won their last world series in 2014, at this point in the season, they had over a 10 percent chance to win the world series, so looking at one of the most data driven baseball resources around, they're basically saying that the giants have very little chance to make the playoffs and are most likely not going to be competitive in the playoffs even if they do make it. So it was a giants fan. I'm torn about what direction the team should be heading and they have a big decision to make. Are they going to try to bolster the team that won three world series? Are they going to try to add complimentary parts in mccutchen and long Gloria to the core of belt Crawford Posey bump gardener, or are they holding onto the existing talent that they have to keep the team competitive, to keep the fan base engaged while they start to cycle in youth and young talent? 

Benjamin: And to me the question is what do the giants do with hunter pence? And before I say what I think the giant should do, let's talk about who hunter pence is and what he's done for the giants. So if I look at hunter pence, his career overall, he's about a career to 80 batter hits about 20 home runs and about 75 rbis in the season, which are pretty respectable numbers and I think the important thing about hunter pence is not only his contribution on the field, but also the impact that he makes off the field, his leadership, the intangibles, the way that he gets the team to rally and stay focused. And so 100 pounds is obviously been a tremendous part of the giants. Playoffs runs. He's won two world series a and he's also a fan favorite. On the flip side, he has deteriorated in terms of his on field performance over the last three years and he's an expensive asset costing 18 point $5 million dollars this year. 

Benjamin: In the last year of his contract, the last time hunter pence played a full season was in 2014. The giants last world series, he batted two 77. He hit 20 home runs and he had 74 rbis, which is just about his career average to that point since then in 2015, again, he had to 75, but he only had 207 at bats and the reason he wasn't able to stay on the field was because he has a chronic hamstring issue. Two thousand 16. He rebounded. He had 395 at bats, hit two 89, 13 home runs 58, so not a complete season, but still when he was on the field, he was competitive. Last year was a little bit of a different story for hunter. He batted to 60. He hit 13 home runs and 55 rbis. He was often injured. He had almost as many at bats in single a and aaa as he did for the major league squad. 

Benjamin: And then so far this season he's batting a poultry one 72 injured his thumb and his spent a fair amount of the season on the disabled list. To me, hunter pence, while valuable from a team and comradery perspective, is a deteriorating asset. And so the question is, are the giants going to stay true to the core of who their team is, bring hunter pence back because he's a leader in the clubhouse and hope that he can rebound from some of the injuries and some of the deterioration that he's seen over the last few years or they going to make a commitment to Mac Williamson, a player with potentially a higher upside but an unproven entity for the most part. I think the question comes down to, do you have to make the decision between Williamson or pence in a vacuum or are there other roster moves that the giants can make? And so when we look at the rest of the giants, outfield, you know, to me, you look at Andrew Mccutchen, you made a longterm commitment to him. 

Benjamin: He's not going anywhere. And so it comes down to who are the other outfielders you have? Gorkys Hernandez. Uh, right now he's batting 3:10. He's got six home runs. He's stolen some bases. He plays multiple positions in the outfield. I can't imagine he's anywhere. You have Gregor Blanco who is more of a utility outfielder that can play almost any position, a guy that bring some speed to the lineup and some depth and then you have Austin Jackson, but he's your everyday center fielder, so there's also waiting in the wings of Stephen Dugger down in Aaa, who's potentially you're starting center fielder for the next few years because the question is, where does 100 pence fit? Do you get rid of one of your two utility outfielders and not have a backup centerfielder? Do you get rid of the center fielder that you made a commitment to in the beginning of the season or do you punt on somebody who potentially has some high upside and Mac Williamson and. 

Benjamin: Sure there are other options. Potentially you could get rid of one of the relievers to keep an extra outfielder out, but the truth is the relievers are pretty taxed. You need as many arms as you can because the starting pitching hasn't been able to go deep in the game so far this season. And so at the end of the day, I think that this comes down to a question of whether the giants are trying to win now and they need veteran leadership and they think that hunter pence is the type of player that brings more than just his on field performance. Are they going to finally commit to trying to develop some of the younger talent because they're ready to make the transition or are they ready to just cut bait with some of the older players and try to move him along for another asset. Can you trade hunter pence and hope that somebody else who's competitive is looking for a bat with some power in the outfield? 

Benjamin: It's an interesting indication of where the giant's head is at. I think that they have sunk down to a couple of games. Five games below, 500. It's before the all star break. You have a pretty good sense that this is about a 500 team, but you have Kwaito and you have bumgardner coming back and hopefully they can bolster the pitching staff. I think that this is going to be a tough decision for the giants management. I think that they'll inevitably bring hunter pence back onto the team. They'll give him a shot. They'll probably move a reliever or one of the utility infielders down, somebody that has an option to see what they have in hunter pence and try to squeeze as many outfielders in as they possibly can, but they ended the day I think that they're going to end up with a log jam of outfielders and they should make a commitment to see what Mack Williamson can do as opposed to what hunter pence has left in the tank. 

Benjamin: And so from an emotional perspective, it's a difficult decision. I love hunter pence. I love the beard. I love the fire. I love the attitude. I love the funky swing. He's a part of the core team that won the championships for the best era of San Francisco giants baseball, but at the end of the day when I watched the team this year, I feel like this is a transitionary team and it's time to start making the moves. So let's see what hunter pence has left in the tank, but my opinion is unless he's going to let the world on fire to the point where this team is significantly, it's time to give some of the younger players an opportunity to shine. And, uh, this team shouldn't necessarily be trying to win now but trying to build for the future. But let's see what hunter pence has left in the tank. I'd love to hear what you have to say about this transition and where the giants are. 

Benjamin: So we're gonna wrap this episode of the for the fans by the fans podcast up. But if you have an opinion about whether the giant should keep release or trade hunter pence, I would love to hear from you. And you can reach us@fourthefansbythefans.com. You can find us on twitter where FTF BTF on instagram or on facebook. Just search FTF BTF. So that's it for today. Hope you guys are enjoying this podcast. We love bringing it to you. Thanks to our friends at fanatics. If you're going to go buy your giants gear, click on the link in the show notes, or go to FTF BTF.com/fanatics, and our friends at fanatics will kick as a couple of bucks to help produce this show. That's it for this time. I hope you enjoyed the first, a solo act of the FDF BTF San Francisco giants edition podcast, and until next time, so we're going to miss and that's it.

Benjamin Shapiro