Hunter Pence Rumors

NL Notes: Turner, Heyward, Holdzkom, Pence

Shortstop Trea Turner, the reported player to be named later in the Wil Myers deal, will be headed to the Nationals organization in June, but for right now, he’s enjoying his time in Padres big-league camp, MLB.com’s Corey Brock writes. “It’s been great. It’s been everything I’ve hoped for and more,” says Turner, who adds that he’s liked working with Padres third base coach Glenn Hoffman. Turner’s situation is unusual, though it sounds like he and the Padres are making the best of it. The team can’t simply trade the 2014 first-rounder now because they’re not allowed to deal him until a year after he signed his first pro contract. At the same time, it’s widely known that he’s in the trade and will be with the Nationals in June. Here’s more from the National League.

  • Free-agent-to-be Jason Heyward doesn’t know what his future holds, but he’s happy to have a new start with the Cardinals, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch writes. “I spent five years at this level with one organization and I still don’t know if I’ve seen the best of myself,” Heyward says. “I do feel that this is the best thing that could have happened to me as far as playing this game, getting a new start somewhere else. Absolutely.” Heyward adds that money will be part of the equation in his search for a new team, but that it will be secondary. “Who is going to provide that environment on a daily basis that says you have a great opportunity to be great for as long as you can play? That’s the biggest thing for me,” he says.
  • The Pirates signed reliever John Holdzkom out of independent ball last season with the idea that he would be an extra arm for Double-A who might turn out to be something more, Bucs special assistant Jim Benedict tells ESPN 970’s David Todd in an interview Todd transcribed for Bucs Dugout (a website for which I also write, in the interest of full disclosure). Benedict saw Holdzkom pitch last summer at Triple-A Indianapolis. “I remember telling Clint (Hurdle) like a lot of other guys, ‘There’s a guy down there that can help us. He’s downhill, he’s 98 and it cuts. And I know that’s hard to hit, so let’s keep our eyes on this one,‘” Benedict says. “And all of a sudden he’s on the Pirates pitching meaningful games.” Holdzkom, who began the season pitching for independent teams in San Angelo and Amarillo, wound up striking out 14 batters in nine innings down the stretch with the Pirates.
  • Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is out six to eight weeks with a fractured forearm, but assistant GM Bobby Evans says that injury is short-term enough that the Giants will simply replace him internally, MLB Network Radio tweets.

Hunter Pence To Miss 6-8 Weeks With Forearm Fracture

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence has suffered a non-displaced ulnar fracture and will be sidelined for 6-8 weeks, the team announced.  Pence suffered the injury earlier today when he was hit by a pitch from Cubs righty Corey Black during a Spring Training game.  The fracture occurred just above Pence’s left wrist, so he was at least fortunate to avoid what could’ve been a more serious injury.

That said, Pence’s absence for some or all of April is clearly a setback for the Giants lineup.  Given how Pence’s time on the DL is expected to be relatively short, San Francisco will likely just use internal options like Gregor Blanco, Gary Brown or Justin Maxwell to fill Pence’s spot in right field.  (Or, one of those players could play in left, shifting Nori Aoki to RF.)

On the other hand, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that the Giants are “now looking for outfielders” and, in an earlier tweet, suggested that Allen Craig of the Red Sox could be “the perfect fit.”  I’m not sure if Craig, in particular, is a fit given his high salary and the fact that the Giants wouldn’t have a regular role for him once Pence returned.  It wouldn’t be surprising to see the team add a veteran outfielder on a minor league deal just for the sake of a bit more depth, yet a major acquisition like Craig would seem unnecessary unless there are setbacks in Pence’s recovery.

The durable Pence has played in at least 154 games in each of the last seven seasons.  His DL stint will snap his streak of 383 consecutive games played, which has been the longest active iron-man streak of any MLB player.


Giants Extend Hunter Pence

SUNDAY: The Giants officially announced the extension, which, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle, will pay Pence $16MM in 2014 and $18.5MM in each of the remaining four years with no signing bonus.

SATURDAY: The Giants have signed Hunter Pence to a five-year extension, reports John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter). San Francisco has guaranteed $90MM and granted a no-trade clause to keep its right fielder from reaching free agency, CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman reports, confirming his earlier tweet. Pence is represented by the Beverly Hills Sports Council.

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The 30-year-old Pence was set to hit the market as one of the top available free agents, but will instead stay in San Francisco for the foreseeable future. With just two games left to play, Pence sports a .282/.339/.481 line to go with 26 long balls and 22 steals. The durable Pence has yet to miss a contest this year, and has never played less than 154 games in a season since establishing himself as a full-timer. In the aggregate, he was worth a career-best 4.2 bWAR and 5.3 fWAR on the season.

With an $18MM average annual value over five years, Pence slots in between two fellow California right-fielders that recently signed up for half-decade stints. Pence's contract bests the extension signed by the Dodgers' Andre Ethier by a mil a year, but falls $5MM per year short of Josh Hamilton's free agent contract with the Angels. 

Coming just one day before the end of the regular season, the Pence contract should function as an important marker on the upcoming free agent market. In particular, with Pence being taken out of the picture for $90MM, Shin-Soo Choo's case for a $100MM+ deal sounds a lot more plausible.  Some questioned Scott Boras' proclamation that Choo, who has never been an All-Star, would be a nine-figure player, but you won't find many people laughing at that notion today. The deal should also help out Red Sox outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who is currently ranked No. 2 on Tim Dierkes' power rankings for 2014 free agents.

For his career, Pence owns a .285/.339/.475 slash line over the course of seven seasons with the Astros, Phillies, and Giants.

Zach Links and Edward Creech contributed to this post.  Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Giants Close To Extending Pence

12:31pm: The Giants have agreed on a five-year deal with Pence, tweets John Fay of the San Francisco Chronicle.

12:27pm: The deal would cover five years, tweets FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal. In a short piece, Heyman also says that a five-year term is expected and notes that an announcement could come as soon as today.

12:18pm: The Giants are nearing a $90MM deal with Pence, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

8:44am: The Giants' extension discussions with outfielder Hunter Pence took on increasing urgency yesterday, according to reports from the San Francisco Chronicle's Henry Schulman and CSNBayArea.com's Andrew Baggarly. Pence was seen huddling in conversation with team president Larry Baer in the reporter-filled clubhouse.

Conveniently-placed ears managed to overhear some of the discussion, according to MLB.com's Chris Haft, and among the things that passed between them was the phrase "I'm sure we'll get something done." Afterward, the 30-year-old outfielder confirmed what everyone suspected and acknowledged that talks were picking up steam. “They’re about to get back to me, seriously,” said Pence. “So we’re either really close or really far away.” When asked whether that could mean a deal by the end of the weekend, Pence said: "Yeah. I’ll know shortly. We’ll just say we’re talking, I guess.”

Baer's surprisingly public negotiation maneuver came after a night that the organization had already dedicated to Pence, who received the Willie Mac award as the club's most inspirational player. To make the night extra special, the club even conned Pence into giving up his mother's phone numbers so it could secretly arrange for her to attend. 


Giants Notes: Miller, Pence, Lincecum, Lopez

Famed Giants broadcaster Jon Miller sat down with Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth to discuss the team's disappointing campaign. He says that the team faces a whole new ballgame now that the long-time rival Dodgers are running a massive budget. San Francisco is somewhat hampered by its $20MM+ annual stadium payments, says Miller, who notes that "the cost of a superstar bat, or a superstar pitcher, has to go to the mortgage every year."

  • Miller tells Megdal that he expects the Giants will try to bring back both of their top free agents, Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum.
  • San Francisco has decided that it will extend qualifying offers to both Pence and Lincecum, reports CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman, with the expectation that neither will accept. Heyman reiterates that, as we learned a week back, San Francisco has decided to prioritize a long-term deal with Pence. That does not mean, he hastens to add, that the team is not interested in exploring a new contract with the popular Lincecum. 
  • Regarding Pence, Heyman says that the Giants "are believed to have signaled a willingness" to meet the four-year, $56MM that Nick Swisher recently received from the Indians. Heyman notes that Pence's representatives at BHSC could point to the Andre Ethier extension (five years, $85MM) or even the Jayson Werth deal (seven years, $126MM) to justify a higher asking price.
  • Left-handed reliever Javier Lopez says he believes he will return to San Francisco, but knows that the team has other more pressing priorities, reports Chris Haft of MLB.com. "The front office and coaching staff are on the same page as far as my wanting to stay here," said the 36-year-old southpaw. "San Francisco is a beautiful place to play, and I love playing there. … But there are a lot of spots that need to be filled before they get to me." Lopez earned $4.25MM this year, and threw 38 2/3 innings of 1.63 ERA baseball and registering a sturdy 8.1 K/9 against 2.8 BB/9. He has held lefties to a .154/.211/.225 line.

Giants Discussing Extension With Pence; No Talks Yet With Lincecum

The Giants are in discussions with outfielder Hunter Pence regarding a contract extension, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. This indicates that the team has real intentions of inking the Beverly Hills Sports Council client before he hits free agency, says Schulman, though he adds (via Twitter) that talks have been "minimal" to date. Meanwhile, the club has yet to begin talks with fellow free agent-to-be and BHSC client Tim Lincecum, Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports

Both Pence and Lincecum were mentioned as trade deadline targets, though the team apparently decided it would be better served by making qualifying offers to the pair of pending free agents. (This year, the qualifying offer is expected to clock in at around $14MM.) At the time, ESPN's Jayson Stark also reported that the Giants were telling other teams that they intended to extend Pence.  

Pence figures to earn a raise, over multiple years, on the $13.8MM he received this year, his final season of arbitration eligibility. In a market that features few high-end power bats, the 30-year-old's career .475 slugging percentage and six-year streak of twenty-plus long balls figures to play up. The durable, righty-swinging Pence has a .289/.340/.477 line in 624 plate appearances in 2013, and has also contributed a career-best 21 steals. As Schulman notes, Pence has said he does not intend to give the Giants a hometown discount, though he has expressed interest in sticking around. Of course, San Francisco can exercise additional leverage before the qualifying offer deadline by threatening to make Pence a QO, which would attach draft-pick compensation and lower his market value.

Unlike the short-time Giant Pence, Lincecum has long been a fixture at AT&T Park. Also unlike Pence, Lincecum told Baggarly that his agent recently told him there was nothing new to report on the contract front. The twice former Cy Young winner has been better than he was in 2012, but has yet to restore his former glory (or fastball velocity). If you believe in xFIP, though, things may look different, as Lincecum's 3.53 mark is substantially better than his 4.40 ERA over his 178 innings to date in 2013. He currently ranks sixth among baseball's top 34 free agent starters, per MLBTR's Tim Dierkes. 


NL West Notes: Puig, Dodgers, Cano, Giants, Pence

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly benched Yasiel Puig at the start of the fifth inning of last night's 4-0 victory over the Cubs, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says it was the right call.  Mattingly gained respect in his clubhouse by benching the 22-year-old, said one Dodgers player.  The player added that Puig also gained respect by taking the advice of the club's veterans and accepting responsibility in his postgame chat with the media.  Here's more out of the NL West..

  • Hunter Pence told Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com (on Twitter) that he'd still pass up free agency to sign a multi-year deal with the Giants, but the club hasn't brought him anything yet.  Pence has made no secret of his preference to re-up with the Giants rather go out on the open market.
  • Robinson Cano's bid for big bucks is hurt by hints that the Dodgers might not be totally flush with cash after they lock up Clayton Kershaw to a new deal, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com in his list of the top 50 free agents for this offseason.  The top ten includes three NL West representatives: Ricky Nolasco of the Dodgers and Tim Lincecum and Pence of the Giants.
  • The Dodgers signed Edinson Volquez as another option for the backend of the rotation, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the struggling Chris Capuano will be bumped, writes Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.  The Dodgers might use Volquez as a sixth starter at least once to give the other starters an extra day of rest.

Lincecum, Pence, Lopez Claimed Off Waivers

Giants stars Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence and Javier Lopez all went on waivers Saturday and were quickly claimed by teams, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.  However, someone familiar with the situation told Heyman that "none of them are going anywhere." 

While the Giants could still trade any of the players, it appears that either the claiming teams were doing so in order to block trades or the Giants weren't really interested in trading any of the three.  The Giants could save close to $8MM by dropping the pending free agents, but there's reason to believe that they were never eager to deal three players who have helped them win World Series titles.  With Lincecum and Pence, the Giants have extra incentive to keep them as they plan to extend qualifying offers and collect draft picks if they go elsewhere.    

Lincecum owns a 4.55 ERA with 9.4 K/9 and 3.6 BB/9 but he is seen as someone who can help teams as a reliever or starter and one rival exec is confident that he's "better than a 4.5 ERA pitcher."  The right-hander is owed $4.2MM for the remainder of the year.  Pence, who makes about $2.8MM and Lopez, who is owed just $859K until the end, were locks to be claimed.  At any rate, it appears that all three men will finish the season in San Francisco.


Cafardo On Morneau, Lincecum, Pence, Polanco

In today's column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe writes that he is surprised to see the Yankees still in the wild card hunt despite all of the chaos they have endured this season.  The chaos he refers to, of course, mostly has to do with Alex Rodriguez.  The silver lining there is that if they throw the book at A-Rod, then they'll be in position to add to the team via free agency.  “The one thing the Yankees don’t have, they don’t have those guys in the minors that can come up and make an impact for them,” said an American League exec. “They won’t have that for a couple of years. So, if they’re going to do a Red Sox-type rebuild, they have a disadvantage. Where Boston has a number of pitchers and positional prospects ready to make an impact, the Yankees don’t. So, they still have to make their impact through free agency and possibly trades.”  Here's more from today's column..

  • The Twins believe they had enough interest in Justin Morneau that if he continues to hit well and shows power, he could be moved to a contender in a waiver deal.  The Blue Jays might claim him but the RaysOrioles, and Indians might also have some interest.
  • Giants righty Tim Lincecum could be a big fish that goes in a waiver deal as some teams like him as a valuable bullpen piece down the stretch. The Giants weren’t offered anything good enough at the deadline, but given his $22MM salary and the fact he’s in the final year of his deal, the Giants may want to free themselves shortly. 
  • Giants outfielder Hunter Pence will be a free agent but he really wants to stay put and he has expressed that to GM Brian Sabean.  However, Sabean told him that if something knocked their socks off they would move him — but nothing materialized.  He could be another movable part during August, but the Giants plan to make him a qualifying offer and then try to re-sign him long term.
  • Marlins third baseman Placido Polanco is 37 and isn't the strongest fielder, but he remains a possible target for teams such as the Red Sox and Yankees, who need a veteran presence and a guy who can still hit from the right side.
  • Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman tried to get Michael Young and Carlos Ruiz from the Phillies.  Though neither deal happened, they are both possibilities as waiver deals during the month of August.  However, Cafardo notes that Ruiz might not make it past the NL teams in the waiver process.
  • Royals right-hander Ervin Santana could theoretically be moved during the waiver period, but it looks like he’s in Kansas City to stay.  As one GM said, “He might be the biggest target going in August. Doubt he gets too far, though.” 
  • When asking General Managers which former GM they miss the most, J.P. Ricciardi got the most responses.  Many believe Ricciardi will be a GM again, whether it’s taking over for Sandy Alderson when he wants to step down with the Mets, or with another club.  Cafardo runs down Ricciardi's highlights in Toronto and notes that he was working with the club when their wasn't money to work with.

Yankees, Reds Inquired On Hunter Pence

TUESDAY, 10:26am: The Yankees also checked in on Pence, writes Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but as with the Reds, there doesn't appear to be a match.  Heyman says the Pirates and Rangers are also among the interested teams.

MONDAY, 3:32pm: The Reds inquired on Giants right fielder Hunter Pence, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, but it doesn't look like a match so far.  It seems an odd fit for the Reds, who have Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo entrenched in their outfield and Ryan Ludwick on a rehab assignment following April shoulder surgery.

Pence, 30, is hitting .277/.320/.457 in 440 plate appearances this year and is hitting .259/.300/.401 since June 1st.  He has around $4.6MM remaining on his contract.  The Giants reportedly plan to make a qualifying offer after the season, setting the bar for a potential trade this month.