The Giants are not going to be contenders for a playoff spot in 2013. If that wasn’t clear last week, it became crystalized after being swept at home by the Cubs.
So in a week or so, the Giants went from potential buyers to potential sellers.
The news Monday that the Giants would be calling up first baseman Brett Pill and outfielder Roger Kieschnick from Triple-A Fresno to open the road trip Tuesday in Phil sent Giants fans into a Twitter.
There was no corresponding moves, but many speculated that a trade could be in the works, namely for Hunter Pence.
Given the Giants’ dismal state in the standing, dealing away Pence would seem to make sense. But there are reasons for hanging onto the right fielder.
If the Giants keep Pence, they can tender him a contract for 2014 and receive a draft pick as compensation if he signs elsewhere
Under new free agency rules, teams can offer their impending free agents the average of the top 125 average annual salaries in baseball for one year. Heading into 2014, that will likely be around $14 million. If the Giants make that qualifying offer to Pence, and he rejects it, they will receive a draft pick in return if he signs with another team.
But others may say that the Giants could get a prospect better than one that could be drafted No. 30-36 in next June’s draft. The draft pick the Giants would receive is a sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. Maybe. Maybe not. For those folks thinking the Giants could get a top-notch prospect (i.e. the Rangers’ Jurickson Profar), you’re dreaming. It won’t happen. Pence isn’t that kind of draw.
You’ll remember in 2011 when the Giants added Carlos Beltran for Zach Wheeler? Well, it wasn’t Beltran for Wheeler straight up. The Mets had to send the Giants $4 million to pay for most of the balance of Beltran’s remaining 2011 salary to make the Giants agree to send the Mets a prospect who was still two years away from making it to the majors. So what would the Giants have to pay to lure a quality prospect from another team in addition to Pence.
The Giants have said they want to re-sign Pence, and the best way to do that is not trading him
When was the last time a player was traded in July, then returned to the team that traded by signing as a free agent the following offseason? I can’t remember. I can tell you it doesn’t happen often.
But more than that, making the qualifying offer doesn’t just give the team a guarantee of some kind of compensation, it could give the team some kind of leverage.
You’ll remember Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn last offseason. Both rejected qualifying offers and held out for long deals for big money during the free agent season. When teams decided they didn’t want pay big money for a player AND give up a draft pick, Lohse and Bourn lingered on the market. Eventually, they signed for much less than they originally sought.
If the Giants trade Pence, the team that acquires him cannot make him a qualifying offer. That means Pence hits the free agent market with less restrictions around him than if the Giants kept him and made the qualifying offer. That drives up his price in a market that appears very thin for outfielders.
Keeping Pence gives Giants exclusive negotiating rights for next three-plus months
The Giants have said they want to bring Pence back. Pence wants to return to San Francisco. Pence’s Facebook page “Team Pence” even linked to an SF Examiner.com post saying why the Giants should not trade the outfielder. Given the mutual interest, there is a good chance the Giants could agree to a deal with Pence BEFORE he hits the market — and potentially save the team some money to fill other needs.
The Giants will NEED a right fielder for 2014
Without Pence, the Giants will head into the offseason looking for a right fielder, a left fielder (unless they want to continue with the Blanco/somebody platoon) and will have a center fielder coming off a significant hamstring injury. Not only that, but they’ll likely be looking for a couple of starting pitchers and a reliever. That’s a ton of uncertainty. And, again, the potential 2014 free-agent class appears thin on outfielders. Shin-Soo Choo is the best option. And while we would prefer Choo over Pence, the price is likely to be higher.
The Giants still have two months of game tickets left to sell
The Giants boast of their consecutive sellout streak, and Pence has become a fan favorite with the Giants fans. The Giants still need a reason for fans to buy tickets for the remainder of 2013. Sending Pence away leaves the team with an outfield of Blanco, Francoeur, Torres, Kieschnick and maybe Peguero. Not all that exciting. Keeping Pence sends the message that the Giants are committed to being a contender in 2014.