At first glance, a hitter turning 37 in April and who will command plenty of at-bats makes little sense for a team on the rebuild without much expectations.
Farhan Zaidi has heard the ulterior-motive charges — “PR moves, trying to relive the glory days,” Zaidi waved off — but the president of Giants baseball operations said Hunter Pence (and Pablo Sandoval) will be around for baseball reasons.
“As we looked at our roster the last couple weeks trying to round things out, watching what’s happening in our division, we’ve got more left-handed starters,” Zaidi said in explaining why the veteran righty Pence makes sense for a team that isn’t expected to contend this season.
The Giants’ outfield has been lefty-heavy, and southpaws are heavy around the division. If David Price does end up in Los Angeles, they would add him to Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urias and Alex Wood, four potential lefties in the rotation. The Diamondbacks now house Madison Bumgarner and Robbie Ray, while San Diego will throw Joey Lucchesi at the Giants.
Zaidi cited Pence as one of the “top 25 or 30 hitters in all of baseball against left-handed pitchers” last season, slashing .327/.378/.636 in 119 plate appearances against lefties last season.
Beyond what Pence brings to the plate, he brings a never-ending supply of positivity, a reservoir of happiness that will fit right into the new regime’s ethos.
“We all know what he brings to the clubhouse, the energy he can bring to a clubhouse,” Zaidi said on KNBR during Saturday’s FanFest.
But he and Sandoval also will play the field, where they excelled last season, and the Giants hope there’s more in them than just being walking advertisements for Giants baseball.
Zaidi listed off their combined stats last season, both heavily platooning, both having lost time to injury: 558 at-bats, .283 batting average, 32 home runs.
“One full season’s worth. That’s an elite player,” Zaidi said. “That’s an All-Star-caliber, middle-of-the-order hitter.”
Two players who will be as much coach as player.
“I think these guys are going to be such a great example for our younger players,” Zaidi said, adding that their presence also will ensure no one is overused.