The San Francisco Giants today acquired Hunter Pence from the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for outfielder Nate Schierholtz, catching prospect Tommy Joseph, and right-handed pitcher Seth Rosin, who’s still in Single-A. The Giants will be responsible for the remainder of Pence’s $10.4 million salary for this season. Update: The Giants will receive cash from the Phillies to cover some portion of the $3.3 million remaining on Pence’s salary this season, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Next season will be Pence’s last year of arbitration-eligibility after which he will become a free agent.
Pence is a right fielder and will replace the Gregor Blanco-Nate Schierholtz platoon that’s patrolled right field at AT&T Park this season. Pence will upgrade the Giants on offense but could be a liability on defense, particularly in the tricky corners of the right-field wall and Triples Alley at AT&T.
So far this season, Pence is batting .271/.336/.447 with a .339 wOBA and a 111 wRC+. Even with that line, Pence may be the right-handed power bat the Giants have been searching for. Pence is no Carlos Beltran, who the Giants acquired at last year’s deadline, but he’s hit 17 home runs this season, making him the immediate leader on the Giants. Schierholtz and Blanco, both left-handed hitters, have combined for ten home runs so far this season.
AT&T can be hard on power hitters, but it suppresses left-handed power to a much greater extent than right-handed power. According to Statcorner, the home run park factor for left-handed hitters at AT&T is 66; for righties, it’s 88. In 82 career plate appearances at AT&T Park, Pence has batted .329/.366/.566 with three doubles and five home runs.
Blanco, a non-roster invitee, had an excellent spring and won the the right field job over Schierholtz. His overall line for the season is .245/.337/.362 with a .321 wOBA and a 101 wRC+. But Blanco built much of that line with excellent play in May and has slumped badly in June and July. That opened the door for Schierholtz, who’s batted .257/.327/.429 with a .321 wOBA and a 102 wRC+ so far this season. Schierholtz has been in the Giants organization his entire career but didn’t hit consistently enough to be an every day player.
The addition of Pence will also give the Giants flexibility in center field. Angel Pagan has held that position all season but, like Blanco, is mired in a slump. Pagan, a switch hitter, is batting .210/.244/.309 in July after igniting the Giants offense with .375/.422/.462 in May. Pagan’s defense in center field has also been sub-par. He seems to have trouble reading the ball off the bat and often breaks the wrong way on fly balls to the outfield. Blanco is an excellent defender and could steady the outfield defense for the Giants, especially with Pence in right field.
With the rival Dodgers making big moves in the last week, the Giants had no choice to counter with their own. Even if Pence gets hot, he’s not the kind of hitter that can carry a team offensively. But with Buster Posey and Melky Cabrera having great seasons at the plate, Pence adds another dimension the Giants have been missing. When Pablo Sandoval returns from the disabled list, where he’s nursing a strained hamstring, the Giants lineup will look more balanced and formidable.
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