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Giants overcommit to Hunter Pence

Sep 28, 2013, 2:26 PM EDT

Hunter Pence AP

Now that he’s out from under the Barry Zito (seven years, $126 million) and Aaron Rowand (five years, $60 million) contracts, Giants GM Brian Sabean has the financial muscle to swing for the fences again. And the result: a five-year, $90 million contract for Hunter Pence.

For Pence, is a windfall that certainly exceeds any expectations he could have had coming into his final season before free agency. Fortunately, he’s turned in his best year at age 30, hitting .282/.339/.481 with 26 homers and 94 RBI. Always durable, he’s started every game for the Giants this season, and he’s played a fine right field and even stolen a career-high 22 bases to go along with his fine offensive numbers.

But this is probably the high point for Pence, and he’s still a borderline All-Star. Pence has never finished in the top 10 of his league in on-base percentage, slugging or OPS. His only top 10 in average came in 2011. His 26 homers this year are a career high. He’s reached 100 RBI once, accomplishing that last year. He’s never scored 100 runs.

Among active outfielders with 1,000 career plate appearances, Pence ranks 28th with an .814 OPS. Fellow free agents-to-be Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, Nelson Cruz and Corey Hart all have higher marks.

On the plus side, Pence certainly doesn’t figure to turn into a liability as a regular anytime soon. Durability is an underrated factor in evaluating ballplayers, and Pence has played in 154 games in six straight seasons. His only DL stint as a major leaguer came in his rookie season in 2007. The contract covers through age 35, and while I’m skeptical that Pence will be an above average regular in 2018, he’s unlikely to turn into another Rowand.

But, that said, I wouldn’t be particularly excited about paying Pence $18 million in 2014, much less 2018. If he’s your third or fourth best hitter, you probably have something. If you’re counting on him for more than that, then you’re in trouble, much like the Giants were this season.

  1. dan1111 - Sep 28, 2013 at 2:35 PM

    In case you’re wondering, his contract is worth 5,578,281,000 pence.

    • bobulated - Sep 28, 2013 at 2:36 PM


    • Caught Looking - Sep 28, 2013 at 3:07 PM

      No matter what the currency is, this deal is a mistake for everyone but Pence.

  2. dcfan4life - Sep 28, 2013 at 2:39 PM

    So many better ways to spend $18 Million and get more value. Hunter Pence is now making more than so many players with far better numbers. And of course thats not including any pitchers which for that money you could get 2 good starters and 3 strong relievers.

    • jwbiii - Sep 28, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      Two good starters and three strong relievers for $18m AAV? Really? Got any names in mind? Here’s the menu:

      • dcfan4life - Sep 28, 2013 at 8:01 PM

        That list is full of bargains cmon. But a better list would be to look at the pirates, nats, cardinals, braves, rangers, rays, cincy, oakland, cleveland, KC, baltimore and arizonas pitching rosters. You will find 2 good starters and 3 good relievers on all those teams for usually way less than $18 million. And that nearly every team that has a 500 record or better…

      • jwbiii - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:04 PM

        Sure, there are some potential bargains on that list, but they are either old, bad, coming off serious injuries, or more than one of the above. As the the staffs you mentioned, yes, you could trade for their arbitration eligible or pre-arb pitching, and they won’t cost you much money, but it will cost you through the nose in prospects. Something like Adam Jones (and others) for Erik Bedard.

      • dcfan4life - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:15 PM

        Like i said, nearly every team with a winning record finds 2 good starters and 3 relievers at least for $18 million and less. Thats what a good GM does, and it clearly shows in their payroll and results. My argument is still the same, this is not money well spend considering Hunter Pence’s production. Could easily have been better used elsewhere.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:28 PM

        nearly every team with a winning record finds 2 good starters and 3 relievers at least for $18 million and less.

        $18M total across those 5 players? Come on.

        Cards – Wainwright ($12M) + Carpenter ($10M)
        Rangers – Darvish ($9.5M) + Nathan ($7M) + Holland ($3.5M)
        Pirates – Burnett ($16.5M) + Rodriguez ($13M)

        The ones who don’t total $18M are all arbitration eligible or not even. Even the Rays come close because Price + Peralta + Rodney make about $16M total.

      • dcfan4life - Sep 29, 2013 at 8:47 AM

        Cards – Lance Lynn ($500K) + Shelby Miller ($490K)
        Rangers – Derek Holland ($3.2M) + Olexi Oganda ($500K)
        Pirates – Francisco Liriano ($1M) + Charlie Morton ($2M)

        Look at these players stats. They are good quality pitchers. And of course im leaving out some very good bullpen pitchers for all 3 teams. You went straight into Ace Pitcher moneys to prove your point. Middle and back end rotation pitching can be the difference from decent teams to playoff teams. And they need good pitching. And that isnt nearly as expensive as most think. Good GMs put $18M to better use than the Giants just did with Hunter Pence. Hell most teams payrolls are under $100M, why pay the 28th best player 1/5 of that…

    • djpostl - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:47 AM

      For a guy with a long history of mind-numbingly retarded statments this one takes the cake:

      “You will find 2 good starters and 3 good relievers on all those teams for usually way less than $18 million. And that nearly every team that has a 500 record or better…”

      Okay, run along and find me a team oer .500 who meets your criteria.

      The Pirates come to mind, except….

      — A.J. Burnett is making nearly $18M by himself and we’re talking FAs, not trades where someone else picks up the tab.

      — Liriano is an absolute bargain, but only because AFTER they offered him a much bigger deal did his physical come back with some serious questions marks.

      — Wandy is $11M per just by himself.

      — The rest of the rotation has been either people who are in arbitration years (Compton & Locke) or someone who isn’t even at that point (Cole).

      — Grilli is making $3M plus while Mazzarro, Wilson, Watson & Melcanon aren’t even arbitration eligible so that kind of value in your pen is literally years away from FA.

      It definitly isn’t Oakland either because everyone in their rotation outside Colon is in arbitration (or pre-arbitration) years.

      Are we seeing a pattern here yet?

      Maybe that the only teams whose salaries meet your fantasy world scenario are ones with rosters made almost completely up of home grown talent rather than an Island of Misfit Toys styled reclamation projects through free agency?

  3. djpostl - Sep 28, 2013 at 2:44 PM

    How they won two World Series with this guy at helm is amazing.

    Pence is a solid player and I really like they guy. And yes, durability is undervalued by the average fan.

    But supply and demnd still rule and this market has a plethora of guys who are better available.

    Just look at how long Michael Bourn had to wait and how far his price plummeted last year. The Braves paid way too much, way too early for B.J. Upton and got .184 & 9 HRs from him for the bargain of an extra $25M in contract commitments (and spare me the “they made he playoffs, derp” because Upton had little to do with that and Bourn had a better year).

    This contract is a HUGE overpay.

    • chill1184 - Sep 28, 2013 at 2:50 PM

      Just an FYI Pence was not a Giant in 2010

      • chill1184 - Sep 28, 2013 at 2:51 PM

        Oh F I just realized that your referring to Sabean nvm

    • djpostl - Sep 28, 2013 at 3:15 PM

      Annndddddd it has a no-trade clause. Because when I and those out I think of guys like the 28th best ones at their position lol.

    • marshallnbrown - Sep 30, 2013 at 1:09 PM

      The “teammate” factor is unmeasure-able, and Pence is by far the best of any I’ve heard or read of in a long time. His ball-to-the-wall playing style and love of the game make everyone on the team much better players.

  4. yankeepunk3000 - Sep 28, 2013 at 2:54 PM

    giants dont seem to learn. way over pay

  5. 18thstreet - Sep 28, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I’m really looking forward to a big contract that makes most of the Internet say, “This seems fair to all sides.”

    • xmatt0926x - Sep 28, 2013 at 5:50 PM

      Never going to happen. Every good free agent will always get overpaid. It’s the cost of doing business for any team that really wants to compete. It’s not easy trying to do what Tampa, or Oakland occasionally does.

      The question isn’t really whether or not the contract is an overpay or a “risk”. The only question is how much of an overpay it is. Is this a HUGE overpay for Pence? It may be. Who knows. We shall see.

      • djpostl - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:28 AM

        There is an overpay…and then there are deals like this.

        There is no “maybe” about this either.

        You are 100% correct about every free agent being overpaid. It is the nature of the system. Guys tend to be underpaid the first 3-6 years, depending upon just how productive they are and how arbitration/extensions shake out. The teams get over early, the players get over late in their careers.

        Look at Mike Trout. Two years at around a half million per and he has arguably been the most complete player in the game, near the top of every MVP list.

        But even using that thought process this is a HUGE overpay. Nothing Pence has done in his career so far justifies this. Maybe half of this. Movign forward there is absolutely zero chance he’ll provide anywhere near the on field performance to dollars spent value of this deal. None.

    • biasedhomer - Sep 28, 2013 at 6:51 PM

      Those are very rare to find.

      But, there are some that seem fair, such as the Tulo extension or the Felix Hernandez contract.

    • Caught Looking - Sep 28, 2013 at 8:33 PM

      Pedroia’s recent deal.

    • Jeremiah Graves - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:49 PM

      I think Jered Weaver signed one of those. Dusty Pedroia did too.

      Generally, it only happens when a player is very, VERY comfortable in his current situation and doesn’t want to leave and the team still wants to put up a respectable offer to avoid insulting him. You get the “home town discount” but it’s still good money at the end of the day.

  6. provguard - Sep 28, 2013 at 3:28 PM

    When Borass gets through with the Choo thing, Pence’s contract will look even better…

  7. chiadam - Sep 28, 2013 at 3:30 PM

    I assume this is five years and 90 million pesos.

  8. terrific41 - Sep 28, 2013 at 3:40 PM

    Wow! Hunter hit the lottery!

  9. jkaflagg - Sep 28, 2013 at 3:42 PM

    given where contracts could be heading now that the Dodgers are throwing money around, this could turn out to be market value at worst and a bargain at best…..assuming he isn’t traded the Dodgers could be paying $17 million the next few years for a 4th outfielder (Andre Ethier)…..

    • paperlions - Sep 28, 2013 at 4:28 PM

      There is no scenario in which this is a bargain. A single team can’t set “market” value, but each team only has 25 roster spots and 1 starter per position..if the Dodgers have a RF, which they do, then their existence is irrelevant to the market because they are not part of it.

      • dcarroll73 - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:04 PM

        I think you’re ignoring how much any outfielder signing will effect the next round of outfielder signings. The “market” is not just RF. I think it might be a little bit of an overpay per year, but more importantly I think the number of years makes sense. He seems to be a durable player ($ per game looks better) and a great clubhouse guy so I have no problem with this amount (and I am a Giants fan from back to the days of ‘NY’ on the cap.)

      • paperlions - Sep 29, 2013 at 10:42 AM

        I am ignoring that because it never happens….people (media, agents, fans) always say it does….but it doesn’t, ever. Just because one or two teams sign players to dumb contracts doesn’t mean anyone else will…and usually, they don’t. Feel free to list all of the examples in which a bad contract “set the market”.

      • djpostl - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:30 AM

        In general you’re right but damn if Jayson Werth’s deal didn’t set the market for Boston overpaying Carl Crawfrd the way they did. Might not have set the market in general, but it sure did affect that whole thing.

      • paperlions - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:40 AM

        How do you disentangle coincidence from “setting the market”? If there is not a series of similar contracts during the same or ensuing years, there is still no evidence that there was some standard “going rate” for a particular type of player.

      • djpostl - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:50 AM

        Sorry, not buying it. They gave Werth that deal night before winter meetings even started and entire baseball world said “if he’s getting that who knows how high Crawfod will go” and then that bad contract he got ensued.

        And no, that isn’t a coincidence. Not the least damn bit of one.

      • paperlions - Sep 29, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        Yeah, just make assumptions, that usually works out from an understanding and predictive context. If someone in Boston says one deal affected the other, fine…but for all anyone knows Boston was already in that general area in terms of years and dollars and possibly willing to go higher.

        So…your argument for markets being set by bad deals is “it might have happened this one time”.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Sep 28, 2013 at 6:35 PM

      So when the Dodgers had owners who bilked the fan base by cutting back on paying for stadium security while the owners were buying seven mansions in the LA area, that was, like, all cool and shit because the world didn’t stop spinning. But now that the Dodgers have an ownership who actually traded cheap talent in order to pick up huge contracts written by ballclubs who no longer wanted to pay that kind of money, they are evil and, singlehandedly, responsible for your distrust of an even ballfield?

      Sweet. I hope the Dodgers continue to make your life miserable. I think you deserve it.

      • dcarroll73 - Sep 28, 2013 at 9:09 PM

        You know full well that the Dodgers were created by the Devil to make all life miserable. I keep waiting for a Faustian climax in which Donny Baseball turns away from his pact with the Devil.

  10. riverace19 - Sep 28, 2013 at 4:45 PM

    Could have signed him for 5 and $70 million. He did hit a home run last night though.

    • Anoesis - Sep 28, 2013 at 8:19 PM

      And I thought it was all based on his stay at a Holiday Inn Express.

  11. bbk1000 - Sep 28, 2013 at 5:40 PM

    When I heard $90M for Pence I assumed it was a 100 year contract…..silly me…

  12. dlhouse18 - Sep 28, 2013 at 8:18 PM

    A moment of silence for the death of the Giants’ newly resurrected salary freedom…

  13. temporarilyexiled - Oct 2, 2013 at 10:13 AM

    Pretty simple really. Good farm system = not having to overpay free agents. Giants farm system = (

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