San Francisco Giants May Have Dropped the Ball in Dealing for Hunter Pence

Bob FirpoContributor IIAugust 21, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 12:  Hunter Pence #8 of the San Francisco Giants swings and watches the flight of his ball as he hits a three-run home run in the eighth inning against the Colorado Rockies at AT&T Park on August 12, 2012 in San Francisco, California. The Giants won the game 9-6.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

When the San Francisco Giants acquired outfielder Hunter Pence on July 31, GM Brian Sabean touted Pence as the final piece to a division winner. In the bowels of AT&T Park, however, it seems the Giants may have been caught looking.

The Giants admit they heard rumblings of Melky Cabrera’s positive test before the Pence deal, and whether he actually confirmed those rumors, Brian Sabean could have sought clarification of Cabrera’s status under Section 6(A)(2) of Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program before the trade deadline.  

It allows the commissioner’s office to disclose a player’s status under the drug testing program to the GM of the tested player if, among other things, the information may affect the player’s “likely availability to his Club.”

So while Sabean’s very public shock at hearing the Cabrera news may have been genuine, it seems odd given that he could have confirmed Cabrera’s status prior to the Pence deal. And if that’s the case, one has to ask whether Sabean and the Giants wasted prized prospect Tommy Joseph, not to mention Nate Schierholtz and Seth Rosin, by trading them for a player, Pence, that was supposed to play alongside Cabrera, not replace him.


Before the trade deadline this year, one thing was clear—the Giants were still short a winner. Even with Melky Cabrera smacking balls around San Francisco, the July acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez and Shane Victorino by the Dodgers reinforced reality.

The 2012 Giants were only winning the National League West if they added a big bopper.

So when the Giants traded Joesph, Schierholtz and Rosin for Pence, it was all smiles and back slaps at AT&T Park. 

The Giants brass proclaimed a winner. Sabean told the fans he was trying to win the division by adding to the club. And Ryan Theriot spoke for the players when he said the deal made him feel like the Giants were “going for this thing.” (h/t

But that’s not how the cards fell. 

Behind closed doors, a different reality now appears to have played out. This soap opera stars the Giants as the team reacting to the Dodgers, possibly skipping a homework assignment and being bit by their juicing star.

Bye bye future star Joseph (and Schierholtz and Rosin), hello we-might-stay-within-five-games-of-the Dodgers in 2012. 


It’s true that the Pence deal may turn out to be great. And if you are a Giants fan you can certainly hope for that. But it’s troubling that Sabean apparently traded for Pence without confirming Cabrera’s status. 

A superstar’s eligibility seems like rather key information for a team considering a trade-deadline deal to win the division.

The loss of Joseph and Rosin only makes this more painful. Give them up to add to a Cabrera-led Giants? Sure. Give them up to buttress a Cabrera-less Giants? 

Not so sure.

The now confirmed Cabrera-less Giants are putting on brave faces and insisting the season isn’t lost, but it’s hard for the objective observer to take that seriously. The division and Wild Card races seem to be slipping away, and the reality is that this season is more likely to confirm what the team proved last year—that the Giants just can’t afford the loss of their best hitter. 

And if it’s true that the Giants could never have survived the loss of Cabrera, Sabean and company are going to have to explain why they didn’t confirm Cabrera’s status before the trade.

Of course, it’s certainly possible that the Giants did call the Commissioner’s Office and for whatever reason the Commissioner’s Office denied Cabrera was in trouble. But if that’s the case, there may be a bigger story on the horizon.