Hunter Pence is going to be back with the Giants in 2013

15 Comments

Pop quiz, hot shot!

You traded for an outfielder in the middle of the year who often looked helpless at the plate. He was a nice guy and had character, though, serving as a great cheerleader. And hey, you won the friggin’ World Series, so it’s not like his presence in the lineup every day harmed you that much. He’s arbitration eligible now is gonna make $13-15 million next season.  What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean can guarantee that outfielder Hunter Pence will be back with the team in 2013 … “Pence is going to be coming back,” Sabean said at the general managers’ meetings. “We think there are some things he can do to fix what went wrong this year. We like the player. We made a big trade to get him, and he’s going to be a Giant next year.”

The sub-par-for-him production in 2012 is kind of scary for a player who will make that kind of money, but I can see the argument for keeping him.

It’s a devil-you-know situation and a play for upside.  Sure, you may end wildly overpaying for a guy who has no business playing a corner for a contender, but what’s the alternative? What replacement is available out there at the moment who you know can fill that role?

Josh Hamilton is not coming to San Francisco. I suppose Torii Hunter and Nick Swisher are possibilities, but you’re talking multi-year deals that will likely be higher than their worth given the dearth of talent on the free agent market this year. And really, the Giants have not played in that sandbox too much in recent years. Beyond that you have, who, Ryan Ludwick? Melky? Ichiro?

The Giants are betting that Pence can snap back to 2011 form. If he does that, or comes close to it, he’ll come close to justifying that arbitration number (or whatever close to it the sides can negotiate). If not, it’s just a one-year gamble, not a multi-year gamble. I can’t say I blame them for doing it.

UPDATE: Donald Trump declines Nats offer to throw out the first pitch

Getty Images
90 Comments

UPDATE: Welp, we wont’ get to see that:

Sad!

8:53 AM: It’s just gossip now, but Politico is hearing that Donald Trump is in talks to throw out the first pitch at Nationals Park on Opening Day. The Nats are not commenting. Neither are the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, who no doubt feel slighted given that the president effectively is a local.

With the caveat that, on Opening Day, tickets are likely to be more expensive and thus you’re likely to have a lot more rich people and friends-of-the-owners in attendance, thereby ensuring a more conservative crowd, I’m struggling to imagine a situation in which Trump strolls on to a baseball field in a large American city and isn’t booed like crazy. He’s polling as low as 36% in some places. He’s not exactly Mr. Popular.

Oh well. I look forward to him three-bouncing one to Matt Wieters and then grabbing his phone and tweeting about how it was the best, most tremendous first pitch in baseball history. Or blaming Hillary Clinton for it in the event he admits that it was a bad pitch.

2017 Preview: Texas Rangers

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Texas Rangers.

The Rangers somehow won the AL West last year despite not being super great at any one aspect of the game. There are stars here — Adrian Beltre, Cole Hamels, Yu Darvish and Rougned Odor are all spiffy players — but the Rangers won the division by being greater than the sum of their parts. They scored a decent number of runs despite some bad collective peripheral numbers and they allowed more runs than anyone in the AL except the Twins and Athletics. Yet they had a great record in one-run games and outperformed their pythagorean record by a WHOLE lot. Luck shined brightly on the 2016 Rangers.

It’s hard to expect luck to hold in any instance, but that’s especially the case when there have been some pretty significant changes. Changes like the loss of Carlos Beltran, Ian Desmond and Mitch Moreland. In their place: A full season, the Rangers hope, from Shin-Soo Choo, a converted-to-outfield Jurickson Profar and Mike Napoli. That may wash out OK, especially if Choo is healthy, but it wouldn’t be shocking to see some regression in two of those offensive slots.

Starting pitching is also a big question mark. Cole Hamels at the top is not a problem, obviously, and if Yu Darvish is healthy and durable the Rangers have an outstanding 1-2 punch. Martin Perez in the third spot presents promise, but he’s been exactly average so far in five major league seasons. The back end of the rotation has some real problems. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross are hurt at the moment and even if healthy, Cashner seems to be a shell of his once-promising self. A.J. Griffin is looking to pitch in his first full season since 2013. If the Rangers are strong contenders all year it’s gonna be on the “Spahn and Sain and two days of rain” model, but I have no idea what rhymes with “Darvish” and that’s sort of a problem.

The bullpen is going to look a lot like it did last year. Sam Dyson will close, but manager Jeff Banister has shown in the past that he’s not a slave to keeping guys in any one role down there. Jeremy Jeffress will likely set up but he’s closed before. Some think Matt Bush or Keone Kela could close. We’ll see Tanner Scheppers and lefty Alex Claudio. Banister has a Manager of the Year Award on his mantle and while that often doesn’t mean anything, it usually suggests that a guy knows how to deal with his pen. Banister will do OK with what he has.

Really, though, the rotation is a concern, as is hoping that a 35-year-old Mike Napoli and a soon-to-be 38-year-old Adrian Beltre can continue to be the types of players who can form the offensive core of a playoff team. There’s talent and a track record here, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. For that reason, I suspect the Rangers will fall back a smidge this year, even if they’re a playoff contender.

Prediction: Second Place, American League West.