Hunter Pence Trade: The Knee-Jerk Analysis

The trade's official. Hunter Pence and sweet, sweet cash for Tommy Joseph, Nate Schierholtz, and Seth Rosin.

This is about the next two months. And next year, of course. But a lot of things can change in a year. Gregor Blanco means something to you right now. Last year, he was a page falling in a Baseball Reference forest, not making a sound. Pence could be around next year. But this is about the next two months.

For those next two months, the Giants got better. Not sure how much better. But either Angel Pagan or Blanco is going to see a reduction in playing time. Probably Blanco. That's a swap that should help the Giants. But don't expect a miracle worker:

Year Age AB HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2007 24 456 17 26 95 .322 .360 .539 .899 129
2008 25 595 25 40 124 .269 .318 .466 .783 105
2009 26 585 25 58 109 .282 .346 .472 .818 116
2010 27 614 25 41 105 .282 .325 .461 .786 112
2011 28 606 22 56 124 .314 .370 .502 .871 139
2012 29 398 17 37 85 .271 .336 .447 .784 109


Good. An improvement. But if you're expecting a repeat of 2011, you're likely to be disappointed. A good way to describe Pence would be Nate Schierholtz with an extra dozen home runs per year. That's not insignificant. It's not as significant as you might think, though, especially if you note that Schierholtz is a much better defender. Over the last two years, Schierholtz hit .271/.326/.429 over 510 at-bats. Pence's career numbers: .290/.342/.481. Add in the difference in parks, and it's closer than you'd hope.

In a way, Pence is the most obvious Giants acquisition since the last one. Average-dependent, swings at a lot of bad pitches ... he'll fit right in. He'll frustrate, and he'll excite. And he'll creep you out. You have to stare behind him, like a Magic Eye poster, if you want to live.

I'll get a little straw-hatty here, though, and I'll throw in a dash of marketing. You're not going to convince the players in the clubhouse that Schierholtz is close to Pence. They'll think the Giants got a middle-of-the-order dynamo. The Dodgers are making big moves. At least, they're acquiring known quantities. If the Giants didn't do anything, what would the mood in the clubhouse be? Thinking a little mopey.

The effects of "a little mopey": impossible to quantify. A four-game winning streak turns "a little mopey" into a hot, confident team. But I'll allow for a small boost in value based on mood and morale. It's impossible to quantify. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Not a good reason for the deal on its own, but considering that Pence was already the better player, it makes a small difference.

The marketing is clear. The Giants are willing to make a big splash. If the Dodgers won the division after acquiring Shane Victorino, Hanley Ramirez, and Ryan Dempster, while the Giants got Marco Scutaro and a dinky reliever, that just wouldn't have looked good. Perception matters, and if the Giants struggled next year, that's another step closer to a fan base that's not willing to sell out every game. It might not be fair to label a team with $130 million in payroll as cheap, but them's the breaks.

Joseph is a biggish piece to give up. He's young, raw, but has good catching skills to go with huge potential power. That's a lot to give up for a year-plus for Pence. The Giants did well to keep guys like Gary Brown, Clayton Blackburn, and Kyle Crick, but Joseph is a big loss. I'll miss that potential in the system, even if he played the same position as Posey and Hector Sanchez (in whom I still believe, dang it.)

Nate is probably underrated by now. He's been around so long, it's easy to take him for granted. He played a mean right field. He has an absolute hose in right. He runs well, and he hits for a decent average. He's a fourth outfielder all the way until he can boost his power. Maybe Philly will help with that. I'll miss him. Kind of. Because, boy, was he frustrating to watch when he was in a slump. The Giants really did jerk him around, of course.

I don't know much about Seth Rosin. He's a bullpen arm in A-ball, huge and right-handed. That's a typical throw-in that might pan out in a few years.

Sweet, sweet cash can be used to acquire goods and services.

I'm not in love with the deal. But the Giants got better. In a divisional race that could be decided by a game or two, that could be important. Or the Giants could just keep losing and losing and fall out of the race by the end of August. It turns out -- and I don't want to sound crazy here -- that you can really only evaluate trades properly in hindsight. Goofy, goofy stuff, I know.

Until then: Welcome, Hunter Pence. Get hot. Get streaky. Have an impromptu breakdancing competition with Brandon Belt so we can GIF it. And help the Giants win more games than the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.

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