Pence deal is official. One-year MAJOR-league deal. Heard $3 million with incentives. That should be clarified in the news release upcoming. The #SFGiants now spell all that out.— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) February 8, 2020
11:30am UPDATE: Confirmed!
Original post: 10:25am
Tomorrow is the Giants’ FanFest and it looks like they might be planning to add a surprise guest to the proceedings, if this random rumor is true:
Heard this: Hunter Pence is on his way to San Francisco for a physical. If he passes, he’s joining the Giants. He turned down offers from Padres and Astros.— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) February 7, 2020
Calcaterra is based in the midwest, so, his source like hit him up via text (it could be Pence himself for all we know). That report hung in the Twitter air for a couple of hours before Alex Pavlovic, who was just at Oracle Park yesterday, followed up:
I'm told Hunter Pence and Giants are discussing a reunion, but nothing is done yet. @craigcalcaterra reported he's on his way to San Francisco.— Alex Pavlovic (@PavlovicNBCS) February 7, 2020
That’s not the same as a done deal, but it’s enough to talk about the Giants bringing back Hunter Pence to help with their rebuild — which, hey . . . look, no two rebuilds have to be alike, and for as much as the Giants have talked up Jaylin Davis and converting Maurcio Dubon to center field, Alex Dickerson’s 70-90 games on the IL and Mike Yastrzemski’s unavoidable regression to the mean doesn’t actually give the team too many outfield options.
So, Hunter Pence.
The beloved Hunter Pence.
The enthusiastic, life-affirming Hunter Pence, who retooled his swing in 2018, played in the Dominican Winter League that year, earned his way onto the Rangers’ roster off a non-guaranteed deal, and posted a .910 OPS in 83 games (316 PA).
What might the Giants be looking at from a 37-year old outfielder who hit .249/.297/.368 in his final two seasons with the Giants? Depth. Think of Pence as an outfielder who can shoot the gaps when Dickerson goes down or Yaz and Davis are ineffective or Austin Slater doesn’t provide enough power. 75-85 games of Pence couldn’t hurt.
And lest you think his swing changes are a flash in the pan, here are some solid notes about his batted ball profile:
Also of note, Pence's batted ball profile changed pretty nicely in 2019 following the swing changes he implemented. His hard hit rate (42.5%) was the highest of his career, and he saw a healthy decline in his GB% with a corresponding increase in his FB% last season...— Jeff Young (@BaseballJeff1) February 7, 2020
The park will surely diminish the potentiality of another .900+ OPS season, but a .750ish OPS fifth outfielder who can supercharge a moribund clubhouse? Seems like a pretty safe play for the front office. It will almost be like the Giants have a 14th coach, and a rules-bending eighth in uniform in the dugout.
It works as a nostalgia play, too. Maybe interest in the team will crater after they begin the year 10-40, but over the course of the season, they might sell 10,000 more tickets than they had projected on January 1st.
We spent a lot of time saying goodbye to Pence on this very site back in 2018. Said Brady:
But he’s going out on a high note. Over the last seven games, Pence has shown glimpses of his old self. He’s hit 8-22 with a double, a Herculean home run, a quartet of runs batted in, and a stolen base. His OPS has been .909, and he’s looked spry, both on the base paths and in the outfield.
But it does mean something emotionally. It means that, for Pence’s likely final games in the orange and black, he gets to resemble the player that galloped and stumbled into our hearts. It means that we get to reminisce on just how fun of a player he was - how his dynamic athleticism, paired with a distinct lack of grace, resulted in mesmerizing moments, hilarious highlights, a truly unique kind of baseball player.
And, if nothing else, it’s giving him a little momentum heading into the offseason - enough to remind him how much he loves this game.
Carmen thanked him in this goodbye letter and also put together this highlights package:
Hunter Pence is in the last year of his contract with the Giants. He is an actual Forever Giant (accept no substitutes) and most fans would like to see him end his career in San Francisco. This presents two options. Either he announces his retirement at the end of this season or he comes back next season in some capacity.
So a farewell tour would at least sell some of the seats while giving Pence the opportunity to leave it all on the field where he had his biggest moments in front of the fans that still adore him.
She wrote that in September 2018, but it remains prescient!
Hunter Pence’s bat and glove might make him little more than a replacement-level player, statistically, but here’s a decent pitch for the numbers not being everything: a positive presence in a losing clubhouse combined with the experience of a champion and an All-Star and a veteran who had to learn to reinvent himself will help the team deal with their 140 losses this year a little bit better and aid in the development of the players they hope can help the team be better in the years to come.