Hunter Pence was already enamored by San Francisco.
Giants beat reporters asking Pence if he was interested in signing a long-term contract extension with San Francisco before he even suited up seemed rather hasty. But Pence didn't give the "Well, we'll see how it goes" answer that could have been expected from a guy who just flew into town.
"That would be wonderful. It’d be nice to have a home, settle in," Pence told reporters, including the Mercury News' Carl Steward. "I would love to, I’ve never been offered anything."
Pence later admitted that he shouldn't be talking about such matters right now. But anyone enjoys feeling wanted. Professional athletes are no different.
However, Pence already held an affection toward AT&T Park and San Francisco, judging from his remarks to the press. So he apparently just needed to know that the Giants liked him as much as he liked them.
"I always walked around. There were a lot of cool breakfasts spots, a lot of coffee shops," Pence said, as quoted by CSN Bay Area's Andrew Baggarly.
"I love coffee, I love breakfast. The weather’s really interesting, it’s always cool here. And like I said, the stadium’s beautiful, fun to play, and there’s a lot of energy. The fans are rowdy.”
Pence doesn't even need dinner and a movie from the Giants. He's ready to get married.
Of course, the feeling was obviously mutual since the Giants traded for Pence. General manager Brian Sabean said Pence was a player he tried to get last year.
Hitting well in AT&T Park surely has something to do with those feelings as well. Pence has been successful in the Giants' home ballpark throughout his career. In 88 plate appearances, he has a .305/.344/.524 triple-slash average with five home runs and 11 RBI.
If Pence ends up signing with the Giants long-term, however, Sabean will have made the best deal of the 2012 MLB trade deadline.
With one more arbitration-eligible season, Pence is already going to be under club control through 2013. That made him a more valuable acquisition than a player set to become a free agent after the season, such as Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster or Zack Greinke. Sabean didn't have to worry about giving up top prospects for a two- to three-month rental.
Of course, Sabean knows that pain all too well, having traded his best pitching prospect, Zack Wheeler, to the New York Mets last season for Carlos Beltran.
Beltran was a nice pickup for the Giants' playoff drive, batting .323 with a .920 OPS in 179 plate appearances. But he signed with the St. Louis Cardinals as a free agent after the season. Wheeler, meanwhile, is zooming through the Mets' minor league system. He'll make his first start for their Triple-A team on Aug. 5 after dominating the competition at Double-A.
Compare that to what Sabean traded for Pence this year.
Nate Schierholtz was a part-time player for the Giants. Double-A catcher Tommy Joseph was the organization's second-best prospect, according to Baseball America. But with Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez at catcher in the majors, Joseph was blocked. And Seth Rosin looks promising as a Single-A pitcher, but he's a long way from the big leagues.
The Giants aren't going to miss any of those players. Yet in return, they received one of the better right fielders in baseball and have him under club control for one more season. This is a great deal for the Giants even without a contract extension. If they lock Pence long-term, the trade becomes that much better.
No, Pence won't be cheap. He could get $14 million through the arbitration process next season, which is one reason why the Philadelphia Phillies wanted to trade him. But that could be less than what the Giants would have to pay for a comparable player on the free-agent market. The same will apply to a long-term contract.
That looks better than the $35 million or so that the Dodgers will have to pay Hanley Ramirez through 2014. And the Dodgers had to give up Nathan Eovaldi, a major league starting pitcher, to make that trade. Considering the Dodgers were trying to get Ryan Dempster up until the July 31 trade deadline, Eovaldi was not an expendable player.
Pence still has to hit for the Giants and the team has to make the playoffs for this trade to be declared a win. But in looking at what Sabean had to give up in trade and the value that Pence will likely end up providing for the Giants through 2013—and perhaps beyond—he made a great deal. It could end up being the best one of this season.
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