Giants Acquire Hunter Pence

After days of rumors and speculation, the Giants have finally acquired outfielder Hunter Pence. Heading to Philadelphia are Nate Schierholtz and a pair of prospects — Tommy Joseph and Seth Rosin. Hunter Pence, 29, is under team control through the end of 2013, but is set to make nearly $15M next season.

The Giants certainly improved today, but Pence isn’t some kind of big upgrade. He’s having somewhat of a down season, hitting .271/.336/.447 (111 wRC+), and yet that’s not much worse than what he’s done over his career: .290/.342/.481, 118 wRC+. The safe bet is that he’ll continue to perform as he has so far this season, providing good — not great — production at the plate. And that’s ignoring his defensive skills, which have rapidly faded. All of the defensive metrics (UZR, DRS, FRAA) seem to agree that he’s a mediocre fielder at this point (and with Angel Pagan patrolling center field, that’s cause for concern).

Even in spite of his recent struggles, Gregor Blanco has been average with the bat (101 wRC+) and spectacular with the glove this season. So it’s not as though Pence is filling a major void here. He’s an upgrade — make no mistake — but not a significant one.

Yesterday, I tweeted the following:

And that’s where the impact of this sort of deal can be felt. The one thing I was hoping the Giants would accomplish in trading for an outfielder: push Justin Christian off the roster. Even if Pence wouldn’t be much of an upgrade over Blanco, the Giants would have a markedly better bench with Blanco taking over Justin Christian’s spot. With Nate Schierholtz gone though, that unfortunately won’t be the case. Nate probably isn’t an everyday caliber player, but he’s a very good fourth outfielder: he’s held his own against righties and lefties throughout his career (94 wRC+ and 95 wRC+, respectively), he can handle right field at AT&T Park like so few others, and he’s a good late-inning pinch running option. So it’s easy to downplay what the Giants gave up in Schierholtz, especially considering that he’s still under team control for another couple years after this.

As for Tommy Joseph, the centerpiece of this trade, I’ve always been relatively low on him as a prospect; one of the main reasons I wasn’t too optimistic about Joseph was his defense, something that is of paramount importance when it comes to catchers. But he’s reportedly shown dramatic improvement in that regard. And, of course, that power-heavy bat is what makes him special: he’s put up league-average numbers in Double-A Richmond as a 21-year-old catcher — quite the promising sign. From the Giants’ standpoint, they can afford to give up catching depth with Buster Posey, Hector Sanchez, and Andrew Susac already in the organization, but as an advanced hitter at the most demanding position in baseball, Joseph is a pretty valuable piece. As John Sickels put it: “Joseph isn’t a sure thing by any means and catchers often have unusual development curves, but there aren’t that many potential regular catchers in the minors.”

The final piece headed to Philadelphia, Seth Rosin, could pan out as a solid middle reliever. The 23-year-old pitcher has put up strong peripherals in High-A this season, although he’s a little old for his level.

Ultimately, at the risk of this seeming like a cop-out, I’m neutral on the deal. The Giants acquired an above-average outfielder, and he’s not just a rental. But their starting lineup only got slightly better, and the deal comes at a considerable expense: the three players headed east, as well as the money owed to Pence throughout the next season and a half.

Giants Re-Sign Matt Yourkin, Andrew Kown

According to a source, the San Francisco Giants have re-signed Triple-A starters Matt Yourkin and 2011 PCL All-Star Andrew Kown.

UPDATE: I’ve received confirmation that the team has, in fact, re-signed the two right-handers. They should show up on the Giants’ list of non-roster invitees for Spring Training.

Yourkin, 30, has pitched with Fresno over the past couple seasons. In 2011, he posted a 4.69 ERA in 167 innings over 29 starts. For his career, he owns a 4.19 ERA, 8.2 K/9, and 3.3 BB/9 in over 600 innings.

Kown, 29, also spent 2011 with Fresno, where he posted a 4.48 ERA across 25 starts, with a K/BB of 1.98.

Giants Rumors: Hiroyuki Nakajima, Cody Ross, Carlos Beltran

Very busy day for rumors. Here’s the latest on Hiroyuki Nakajima, Cody Ross, Carlos Beltran, and more:

Giants have expressed interest in re-signing Mark DeRosa

Just a quick note — via Ken Rosenthal,the Giants have expressed interest in bringing back Mark DeRosa. There isn’t much to expect from him at this point. Projections are hardly a be-all/end-all, but I think the ZiPS projection for DeRosa in 2012 tells the whole story: .244/.300/.277. He’ll probably get a minor-league contract with an invite to Spring Training, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it’s SF that hands him such a deal.

Alex Gonzalez in talks with the Giants

So this was pretty much inevitable. Alex Gonzalez seems to carry the traits that are typical of recent Giants shortstops, namely that he’s old and can’t hit. He’s a veteran, a guy that’s been there before, but he’s also not a particularly good player. With the Giants out on Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins, and a few shortstop options already off the market, there isn’t much left out there. Eventually, it gets to the point where it’s not worth it for the Giants to pursue any of these guys because they just aren’t any better than the internal option, Brandon Crawford. Gonzalez might be that point.

The Good

– The defense: As old as Gonzalez is, his defense is still top-notch. If you go by DRS, he’s saved over +30 runs with his glove in the last two seasons; if you go by FRAA, he’s still +20 since 2010. This is really the only thing that makes him a useful player. He was worth 1.3 rWAR in 2011, and 85% of that value came from his glove.

– He’s cheap: Well, presumably he is. Maybe I’m wrong here. This offseason’s been a little crazy, but I still can’t imagine any teams are willing to throw much money at him. Even his last contract only had an average annual value of ~$2.5MM.

The Bad

– He can’t hit: And that’s pretty much all there is to it. On Twitter, Scott Willis (@BAStatsGuy) spells it out pretty simply in two tweets: Gonzalez has never posted a wRC+ above 100; in other words, he’s never even been a league-average hitter. And Crawford, as ugly as his bat may seem, isn’t projected to hit much worse than Gonzalez.

– He’s old: He’ll turn 35 years old in February. He doesn’t seem like the type to age gracefully, either.

 

…at least it’s not Yuniesky Betancourt?

Giants looking to trade Jeremy Affeldt or Ramon Ramirez

I don’t even know what to say. The Giants are spending little money this offseason, but decided to commit ~$10MM to two lefty relievers. When they re-signed Javier Lopez and exercised Jeremy Affeldt‘s option, I thought it was a bit excessive and unnecessary. Apparently the Giants took a month to realize that, and are now trying to clear up some of the money they have invested in their bullpen. Wow.

Clint Barmes remains on Giants’ radar

According to Ken Rosenthal, the Giants remain involved in Clint Barmes — who will likely sign a two-year deal. Barmes, 32, has been connected to the Giants a lot lately, and for good reason — he’s a solid defensive shortstop, he’s coming off a good season, he’s much cheaper than Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes (who have long been off the Giants’ radar), and he’s a right-handed hitter (so he would evidently complement Brandon Crawford well).

On the other hand, Barmes is getting a little old, and he’s never been much of a hitter (.252/.302/.401, 74 wRC+). In particular, his plate discipline is awful: 163 BB/485 K. As I’ve said before, I’d like Barmes, but at the right price. What that means, essentially, is that if he’s generating a lot of interest (and he sure seems to be), he’s not worth pursuing.

Just a few days ago, Josh looked at Ryan Theriot as a potential platoon shortstop for the Giants. The middle infield market is going insane, and if the Giants don’t want to end up overpaying for a shortstop (as they’ve done in recent years), they’re probably best off pursuing buy-low stopgaps.

Update: Barmes is expected to sign with the Pirates for two years at $11MM. Eh.

Giants Rumors: Priority is Extending Tim Lincecum