The San Francisco Giants have struggled early in the 2018 season, posting a 7-11 record, but their struggles on offense have been even more discouraging.
While their team ERA of 3.50 is eighth in MLB, their 51 runs scored is tied for dead last in MLB with the Kansas City Royals.
One player who has particularly struggled at the plate is left fielder Hunter Pence. The 35-year-old has posted a .172 batting average and .386 OPS through 17 games this year.
Meanwhile, outfield prospect Mac Williamson has been tearing up Triple-A pitching, posting a .487 average and 1.626 OPS with six home runs and 16 RBI in 11 games. The Giants added Williamson to their taxi squad, which gives them 24 hours to activate him or send him back down. It is expected that they will activate him for this weekend’s series against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
To make room for Williamson on the 25-man roster, the club is expected to place Pence on the 10-day DL with a lingering thumb injury.
San Francisco Chronicle Giants beat writer Henry Schulman came on with Murph & Mac Friday morning, and discussed what the roster moves mean for the Giants going forward. First, he touched on whether the move could be the beginning of the end of Pence’s time with the Giants, and whether his departure could come in a similar fashion to that of fellow Giants legend Kirk Rueter, whom the team designated for assignment in the middle of the 2005 season.
“It’s possible,” Schulman said. “I don’t think they’ve had that conversation yet. I think if they ever do have that conversation, like Rueter, they’ll come to him, and the first thing they’d do is say, ‘Look, you know, we’re going to have to do something here. Would you consider maybe retiring, and we could do something for you, and keep you in the organization,’ and all that sort of stuff. You know, the thumb injury, if they didn’t need this roster spot, might not have been something that he has to go on the DL for. But, I mean, it’s certainly not helping. He admits he’s in pain, and he’s a pretty truthful guy, so I think they’re going to wait to see what happens if he gets that thing healed up.”
Schulman added since all five of the Giants’ opening-day outfielders lack minor-league options, the club’s roster options are limited.
“And you know, the big problem they have is that they don’t have any outfielders with minor league options, and that’s not a good position to be in. If they did, they could bring up Mac and Slater, Duggar, whatever, and just sort of keep Pence around on the bench as a hitter, or whatnot. But they’re going to have to get rid of an outfielder, and you have to ask yourself at some point, do you want to get rid of Hernandez, who’s your best defensive center fielder? Do you want to get rid of Blanco, who’s there to play the outfield when Austin Jackson isn’t against right-handed pitching? And right now what they’re doing basically is punting. They don’t have to make this decision right now. But I can certainly see a Kirk Rueter situation down the road. The money has been spent, there’s no reason to hold on to a player just because you’re paying him $18 million, but yeah, you want to do it the right way.”
Listen to the interview below. To hear Schulman’s comments on Pence, skip to the 6:45 mark.