Sunday, September 29, 2013

Your 2013 Giants: Pence Retained For 5 Years, $90M

As announced on Saturday and finalized Sunday, the Giants signed upcoming free agent Hunter Pence to a new contract.  The Reverend will be getting $90M over 5 years.  There is a no-trade clause, and he got $16M for 2014, then $18.5M over the final four years.  It was also reported by Schulman that this was an ownership move.

ogc thoughts

Wow, that went at least one or two years more and $3-4M more per year than I had hoped it would be.  But looking at the two deals that Pence's side was using as guidelines - Ethier's 5 year and $85M ($17M per) deal and Werth's 7 year and $126M deal ($18M per) - I guess that is the new economics of today's baseball, and I do like Pence more than I like Ethier.  Looks like it is a meld of Ethier's 5 years and Werth's $18M.

In any case, I at least feel like we have a good chance of getting good value from the deal.  Unlike Rowand, where we had to hope that he maintained peak performance over a number of years (and he didn't even come close at all, he was only worth his contract for the first half season to four months, and it was downhill from there), Pence only needs to do what he has done for his career, and even with inputting an expected career peak decline, he should meet the value of his contract. 

That he's a super hard worker who appears to know what you need to do to stay in baseball shape (unlike Rowand who thought that riding a child's mountain bike was satisfactory exercise in the off-season to stay in baseball shape) and alters his diet (really, Paleo diet, snacking on kale?  My wife bought that stuff, eww, you really have to be devoted to stick to that diet full-time and Pence did) to maximize his body for baseball, you can't ask for more than that.  Plus, he helps the other players, like getting Belt to watch his "Dig Me" videos, a series of at-bats where he hit home runs, and his inspirational "rah-rah" in the dugout like he did in last year's playoffs.  The Giants wanted him for his whole package.

Giants Did What They Had to Do

And when push comes to shove it was a deal much like Bonds or Cain, where the Giants had to do a deal in order for the fan base to view the team as competitive.  That's why the deal got done the way it did, the early reporting was that the Giants and Pence were far apart - the scuttlebutt had the Giants at 4 years and $60M, a chasm apart - then right after the Willie Mac award game, Larry Baer and Pence are seen in serious conversation, then Pence announces to reporters that there a breakthrough in the talks, either very good or very bad.  Then it was soon announced that there was a deal, so obviously very good.  Clearly, the baseball side saw it the way most fans did, that above $15M is overpay, but then ownership stepped up and allowed the deal as Pence was willing to accept.

The deal was not a fait accompli in the preseason.  Back then, we had a very good rotation of Cain, Bumgarner, Lincecum, and Vogelsong, which looked pretty good then.  But after another disappointing season for Lincecum and a poor season from Vogelsong, we are left with just Bumgarner and Cain, with the rest of the rotation a huge question mark, starting with Lincecum leaving as a free agent, possibly.

That makes keeping the offense at the same or better level a very important requirement for being competitive in 2014, as we won in the early part of the season and late when Pagan got back, even though we had the diminished starting pitching.  That then made resigning Pence and making him a part of the team long term the #1 priority of the off-season, as DrB aptly noted in one of his comments here. 

Which led us to here, matching the current market conditions for a player like Pence.  With Ethier's deal, Werth's deal, and Boras starting at 5 years and $100M for Shin Choo Hoo (better than Pence), that set the basic parameters for the deal for Pence, the floor and the ceiling, making the math pretty easy, with only Pence agreeing to what was his minimums.  And he was at his word, taking a fair deal, because who know how mad crazy the free agent market could have gotten, even with his QO?  There were not that many players of his caliber on the market.

Plus, this is a message from ownership to the rest of baseball (and free agents) that the Giants are ultra-serious about winning in 2014, that they are putting their money where their mouth is, and stepping up to pay the price for Pence.  And to one particularly close free agent...

Next Up:  Lincecum and Lopez (though not in that order necessarily)

I don't have time - big project - to go over the whole transcript of the post mortem presser Sabean and Bochy had the other day (oddly, it normally is held the day after the last game, though the reason might be the flight Sabean took, which I'll get to later), but Sabean noted the importance of signing Lincecum and Lopez, as well as Pence. 

Not that the Giants aren't sincere, but Sabean's M.O. is to get his To-Do list done quickly without delay while Lincecum has often waited until the last second to get things done, so my guess is that the main goal of the offseason now is acquiring someone to anchor the middle of the rotation.  And frankly, Lincecum is not strong middle rotation material right now. 

Hence Sabean noting that they are pursuing another starter in addition to Lincecum, who is more a #4 today, instead of saying one more starter and seeing how Timmy goes.  This gives him permission to pursue that middle rotation guy without upsetting Timmy as to the sincerity of the Giants pursuit of Lincecum.  This way, Sabean gets that middle anchor, and Timmy would only be the whip cream on top to improve the rotation further. 

Though ideally the Giants want to get him signed up before free agency, so they are already in talks with his agent (co-inky-dink, same agent as Pence, so easy to shift conversation).

Prospects Stepping Up

I think Sabean's comment on prospects stepping up in the presser refers to the starting rotation (as well as other spots).  I think the plan is to find a reliable #3 starter, that's the #1 priority now that Pence is signed.  Then their 4/5 spots would be filled within, unless we can land Lincecum, in which case, he would be in the mix in the middle, leaving only the 5 to be filled.  Either way, here is where prospects need to step up and fill the back of the rotation.

Lincecum Price Tag

Rumor has it that Lincecum can expect to get at least a 3 year, $30M deal.  Really, that's all?  I would be OK with that.  With the QO of $14M for 2014 that the Giants already committed to offering (and paying should Lincecum accepts, and that is possible), that equates to $7M for 2015 and 2016.  I am willing to gamble that, for, at worse, Lincecum could start in 2014 then relieve 2015-2106.  We are already paying Affeldt $6M per to relieve.

As I noted in the other post, I think that the Giants will craft a deal with Lincecum using that $14M QO as a base, then a second year contract, maybe $7-8M base, plus bonus for hitting IP milestones which mostly corresponds with how well he's doing as a starter, maybe getting him up to his $20M standards if he reaches 210 IP.   Tim likes two year short deals, he's not going to get that much better than $14M for one year, which then values the second year ridiculously low, like a reliever, and this gives him incentive to perform well and earn that money as a starter.  Win, win, win (for the fans). 

LF Internal

As far as LF goes, I think that is also an internal fill where Sabean was referring to about prospects stepping up, unless someone interesting falls to them in the Jan/Feb timeframe on the cheap.  I think the visit to see Cuban free agent Abreu is more for due diligence, tire-kicking, and show than actual interest.  If they bid, it would be more to force the big money teams to step up and overpay, as well as give a show to fans that they are trying to improve.  It would surprise me greatly if they spent a lot of money to improve the offense, it was not the offense that was hurting (except by injury), it was the pitching, particularly starting pitching, that let the team down, start to finish.

As I wrote before, I think Belt in LF makes the most sense (and they can wait to spring training to make that move), opening up 1B for Pill to get semi-regular starts to show off what he got, but then starting Posey at 1B would only take Pill out of the lineup, not as big a deal as taking Belt out now.  They could also pick up a LF/1B lefty hitter, on the older side, to take a bench role as well. 

That leaves space for backup catcher in Hanchez, 4th OF in Blanco, plus two middle infielders, probably Arias and Adrianza, who, as it turns out, is out of options, so he's probably going to win a spot on the roster with an OK spring hitting, as he has some potential and a great glove.  Though I don't know if Noonan is out of options too, so it could be a battle.  And there is still Abreu, the oft-injured MI utility guy who has hit for us when healthy.  And who knows who else coming in.  It will be interesting in spring.


  1. If 3/$30 can get Timmy re-signed, I would think that would be an easy yes for the Giants. They might even go 3/$36 just for old times sake. Anything more than that and I would hope they let him go.

    There is a huge logjam of potential reserve players to sort through. There are usually 5 reserve spots on a standard MLB 25 man active roster. At least 1 has to be a catcher so that leaves 4. Usually it's 2 IF and 2 OF, although it does not have to be.

    The Giants currently have Arias, Abreu, Blanco, Perez, Pegs, Roger K, Pill, Adrianza and Noonan who are in contention. That is 9 players competing for 4 roster spots! To me, the obvious choices are Arias, Abreu, Blanco and Perez, but they all have their strong points and warts. The problem is Both Pegs and Adrianza are out of options and Pill probably is too. Seems like there could be some lower level trade opportunities arising here.

    1. Finally found the source:

      Baggarly reported that industry sources said that Lincecum could expect to get 3 years and $30M. I would be OK going up to 3/$36M also, but agree that is where I would draw the line too, roughly.

      Also, I screwed up on the math, that's $8M per year for Lincecum, not $7M, but still good for a super reliever that I expect Lincecum to become at some point.

      Yes, lots to sort out among the reserves.

      Between Abreu and Adrianza, I would go Ehire. Abreu is nice, but he strikes out a heck of a lot and had not done that well in the majors. Against that, we probably lose Adrianza if we put him through waivers (though could trade him before that happens) plus he showed some good potential in AAA this season, albeit SSS.

      In my scenario, Pill would be our starting 1B, so in that case, we would not lose him. But I have to think he's gone if we DFA him.

      I don't see why anyone would take Pegs off our hands if we DFA him at the end of spring training. He has not shown much of anything, though nice that he didn't strike out much this season.

      Also, it sounds like Blanco had a pretty bad injury, so he might not make the starting day roster, though maybe by May/June.

      Perez appears to have won a spot in management's eyes, getting to play so much in the final days of the season. I think that only bought him an opportunity to win a spot next season on the bench.

      And given how he hit in AAA, I don't see him winning the spot outright, in which case, the Giants might keep Pegs instead since he's out of options, if Blanco is out at the start. Dropping him in April probably would ensure that no other team picks him up off of waivers, by then teams are pretty set on their 25-man.

      So is that the list of guys out of options, Pegs, Adrianza, and Pill? (I believe Pill is, but maybe not, I think he got added after his 2011 season, which would mean that he still has one more option)

    2. Nine guys for 4 spots. That's wild. I think that is the right guys who are out of options, but Blanco might be as well. Pegs, Adrianza, Pill. There seems to be a lot of depth, we'll have other OF guys starting to challenge as well, there will be some call ups from Richmond.

    3. I just meant out of the prospects, I assume Blanco has been without options for a long while (though technically, he might have something, like Sandoval did, but given that he struggled, I assume the Braves used up all his options while they were evaluating him previously).

      Blanco is a proven 4th OF, so assuming his injury isn't that severe, I doubt anybody will beat him out of a bench spot, the battle will be for the other spots, I think. Oh, and I expect Arias to have a spot too, so really that's, what, 7 guys fighting for 2 spots.

      Though if they give Pill most of the starts at 1B and move Belt to LF, that would be 6 fighting for 2.

  2. Larry Baer was in the TV booth for a half inning with Kruk and Kuip and addressed the "overpay" issue in regard to Pence. He basically said that the Giants are a classy organization and are not going to try to play games and take advantage of a player who they want and who wants to play for the Giants. If it's the right player, they are going to do what it takes to get the deal done and make that player feel wanted.

    I think that's a great way to look at it as long as the contract does not become a barrier to acquiring needed talent elsewhere on the roster. One thing I think we learned from the Zito contract is that the Giants did not allow it to become an albatross, so they have that track record behind them.

    1. Thanks for sharing the info. Yes, I agree that the Giants stepped up when necessary so that Zito (and really Rowand) did not become an albatross, though I would credit that more to Neukom and he got pushed out partly because of that philosophy.

      Baer with this move appears to be following in Neukom's footsteps, doing the right thing for the baseball team and not necessarily the right thing for the owner's pocketbook. Hopefully he continues on this track with Lincecum and Lopez, then we'll see what happens with the free agent middle rotation guy they are seeking (Kuroda?) and possibly another bat at 1B/LF.

      Thanks for the comments.

  3. Forgot to note that Sabean took off Saturday with a group to go to see the Cuban free agent, Abreu, along with other teams. That trip could be the reason why Sabean and Bochy had their presser early.

    Another bit of info that came out was that the Giants wanted to get the Pence deal done before the end of the season, in order to move fast on rebuilding for 2014, to get some deals done before the free agent period, thus their move now to try to sign Lincecum to a deal before the free agent period starts a few days after the last World Series game, and to show other free agents (as well as fans) that the Giants are working hard and moving fast to get competitive for 2014, that they are doing all that they can do that 2013 doesn't repeat.

    To that point, DrB noted in another comment that Gaudin's carpel tunnel issue is not something that goes away, so I've reached the point of acceptance that you cannot really rely on him for 2014 as a starter and thus the Giants need to move aggressively (but does Sabean do it any other way when he says he wants something publicly? :^) to get another starter after, hopefully, signing Lincecum back to the team (and for that matter, Lopez too).

    1. John Shea reported that the Giants didn't like Abreu's swing or defense (and he plays 1B, where the Giants value defense), so it's looking more and more to me that this is just a show for the fans and to push other teams to pony up more money if they want to get Abreu.


    The Giants draft position in the first round is #14, after they finished tied for 12th with San Diego (but I guess they won the season's series, so they are officially finished third in the NL West division, and more importantly, didn't join the Marlins in infamy by being a World Champion who finished last in their division the following season.

  5. Ugh on Napoli:

    All the sources note $5M for him, but leave out the fact that with bonuses, he earned the $13M he was originally going to get in his first deal, and he earned it. OK, I'm not so interested in him anymore, that's a lot more than I'm willing to pay for someone who has a potentially severe health issue. And he certainly can't catch with that issue without worry that he would aggravate his condition.

  6. So I've mulled this over some, wrote a post on it, got on f/g and soapboxed it up some... I think the missing part of the analysis is what you put down at lefty's and I hinted at in my comments on f/g. There are all sorts of costs, but where is the real currency these days? Protecting your talent. Protecting your draft budget under the new CBA. All Pence costs is money. So its a bit of an overpay, Giants fans would have liked something more towards 4/60, but the reality is you aren't going to get him for under what he was already being paid, because he has performed admirably, especially within his stat lines. Except for the year we won the world series, his WAR scores are solid. But the real cost would be fishing around in the bad part of the FA pool, giving up draft pick money and most likely spending more money, unless you can outlast Scott Boras (it does happen from time to time, but Choo and Ellsbury have much nicer stats and profiles than Bourn).

    All teams have money, they don't have enough talent. You try to rate this talent the best you can, and WAR is a nice tool for that. But each player has strengths and weaknesses that you have to bend to your team. Giants fans immediately cut to the fact Choo/Ellsbury are LHH, in our park that is a big issue. The fact Pence has proven out for over a year and put up good numbers, and is willing to come brave the fog and what not (hey Alfonso Soriano said no thanks) is the other issue. These things don't take place in a neutral OPS+ WRC+ vacuum. They take place in real circumstances. Where you play the majority of your games will have a big effect.

    I think that's the old saw about Sabean getting lucky with the lack of competition in the NL West. Well, he does build his team around said competition, and there are certain types of players who really do better in the smaller AL ballparks who would flounder out here. I'd also note that going up against Clayton Kershaw and the like isn't easy. Pence is in there every inning of every game.

    1. Yeah, that was the light bulb, what Lefty wrote about the prospects we would have to trade to replace RF if we don't get it through free agency, then that of course, would cost us a first round draft pick, so either way solid prospect talent down the drain, when here all we have to do is overpay slightly to a highly professional, highly motivated, leader of men.

      Good point about LHH and guys not wanting to come here. I would add Carlos Lee telling us to not even bother making an offer anymore because he got what he wanted from the Astros.

      I find it funny how that cycles around, it was not that long ago that the NL West was a deadly place to be, with the wild card coming from there and really good teams battling it out.

      But hey, the Giants beat those other teams, fair and square, so it don't matter how good or bad the NL West teams are, the Giants beat the Central and East teams as well, on the way to their championships.

      And it is amazing how many people I still see posting that the Giants and Sabean were lucky to win their championships, I saw a few this past weekend perusing some of the sites. Sigh...

      As I noted somewhere, people like to deal with the abstract "is the deal good value" when they do not account for the fact that the reality is that if the Giants let Pence go free agency, and they lose him, there will be hell (and probably Boras) to pay, to cover his loss to the team. While I think we are good enough to compete with him, losing his talent without replacing it would sure feel like a huge kick in the gut, and all the possible ways we would lose prospects trying to replace that talent. Meanwhile, the better alternative is to pay something close to market value - Ethier and Werth - and secure his services, someone you like and admire already.

    2. Furthermore, the discussion on Fangraphs put the over pay at roughly $10M, which worked out to only an extra $2M per year, which is pretty much pocket lint to teams today. I couldn't believe all the angst there over paying an extra $2M per year.

      Plus, when using WAR, they don't account for the fact that the team is paying in future money, and the $/WAR has been roughly increasing 10% per year (except when recessions hit hard!), so by the end of the deal, the Giants are probably paying roughly paying for 2.5 WAR production. That's his 2010 season, .786 OPS.

      And the Giants appear to add to Pence's value as a Giant over what he was before. The Giants are much more aggressive (and successful) on the base paths, as his BsR with the Giants is like worth half a win over what he was doing before, this reminded me a lot of what Randy Winn did with us. Plus it appears that whatever the Giants do defensively helped Pence greatly, relative to before. He's roughly at 0.0 with the Giants in his career per Fangraphs, but was roughly -10 the prior two seasons and -6 the season before that. That's roughly one win improvement.

      Thus, whatever he might have done previously, with the Giants, he's adding roughly half a win with his baserunning, and another win with his improved defensive positioning. That's 1.5 wins right there in improvement from being with the Giants, on top of whatever he does offensively.

      That would explain why even though he didn't hit that much better than he did in prior seasons, this season is his peak WAR season, roughly 1-1.5 WAR above his peak before (5.4 vs. 4.3 and 3.8). So while some count off starting at 3.5 because they were basing his WAR production off of his prior production, one could argue that he should be starting off higher, and starting at 4.5 (then minus 0.5 per) would result in a $/WAR of $5.1.

      And I would add that there is value to knowing your player versus the free agents who are out there. That removes another layer of risk from signing Pence vs. signing another OF.

    3. All good points. I agree that there is value in knowing your player, and there is value in not fishing around wasting time rebuilding something that wasn't broken if all it takes is some money. And the angst over the extra cashish, it really is pocket change for a MLB team. And as an occasional critic of the Giants pocketing those things, I'll also go the other way and say good job not worrying about the extras when they need to build the team.

      Pagan and Pence are both high success % SB'ers. There is value in that, and hopefully it becomes the emphasis in the org. Smart baserunning is hugely important. Belt is a good baserunner, he does push the envelope at times, but he's aggressive and sneaky.

      Mainly I think there has to be some examination of what teams are paying, and at some point the standard $5MM per WAR has to fold, bumping up to $6MM. 5MM lasts a long time though because it is an easily divisible #. Seriously. At $6MM Pence has to put up 15 WAR over 5 years, a standard 3 WAR per year. That just doesn't seem like that big a challenge. He's done it extremely consistently.

      So maybe the Giants look scrapheap, maybe a Michael Morse type? There will be attention paid to Kendry Morales, but he'll cost much more, and he can't fake LF the way Morse could. You could then... send Blanco and Perez in for the late innings! Yeah boy!



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