Hunter Pence Rumors

California Notes: Dipoto, Ethier, Giants

Months ago, the Angels exercised their 2016 option on GM Jerry Dipoto’s contract, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets. That news had not been reported until now. The option is the last one on Dipoto’s original contract, a three-year deal that included two options. That the organization has not extended Dipoto to this point might or might not be notable. The Angels have not always quite lived up to lofty expectations in the last few seasons, and Dipoto’s tenure has been shaped in part by an unfortunate contract and ugly dispute with Josh Hamilton (which, to be fair, were both at least partially the fault of owner Arte Moreno), but the team is coming off a 98-win 2014 campaign. Here are more notes from the West Coast.

  • Outfielder Andre Ethier has reestablished himself this year after a winter in which the Dodgers couldn’t trade him, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register writes. “I don’t think anybody wanted me either,” says Ethier. “It takes two to tango like in a lot of things. … At the same time, maybe they knew what they were doing. Maybe the reason it didn’t happen was because they were asking more than other teams were willing to give.” Now, Ethier is in the midst of a resurgent .287/.369/.506 season, and Plunkett points out that, as the dollars remaining on Ethier’s contract continue to shrink (he’s currently owed about $49MM more through 2017, including a buyout for 2018), it might become a lot easier for the Dodgers to trade him than it was last winter.
  • Giants executives Brian Sabean and Lee Elder were on hand to watch today’s Reds/Cubs game in Chicago, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal writes (all Twitter links). As Rosenthal points out, the natural conclusion is that Sabean and Elder were in town to watch Reds starter Johnny Cueto — Cueto will be a sought-after trade target this summer, and the Giants need rotation help. It could be, though, that the pair were at Wrigley for other reasons.
  • Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is headed to the disabled list with wrist tendinitis, as Rosenthal tweets. Pence has not played since June 2, so he should be able to return within a week if he’s ready. To take Pence’s place on the active roster, the Giants selected the contract of righty Mike Broadway today after promoting an outfielder, Jarrett Parker, earlier this week.

Injury Notes: Pence, Tanaka, Blue Jays, Fister, Ryu

Giants outfielder Hunter Pence is returning to active duty tomorrow, Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News reports on Twitter. Pence has yet to see MLB action this year since suffering a fractured forearm in the spring. The 32-year-old figures to provide a nice boost to the club, which has produced middling results thus far.

Here are some more injury notes from around the game:

  • Another important player who received promising injury news is Yankees ace Masahiro Tanaka. As Bryan Hoch of MLB.com tweets, Tanaka threw 35 pitches in a BP session today and seems to be nearing the start of a rehab stint. Tanaka’s continued progress is obviously welcome, particularly given that swingman Chase Whitley may be headed for season-ending surgery.
  • The Blue Jays also have some notable situations to watch, with Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca providing several updates. Outfielder Michael Saunders will miss four to six weeks to rest his knee. And catcher Dioner Navarro still does not have a timetable for a rehab assignment as he rests his hamstring. More positively, shortstop Jose Reyes is nearing his own build-up through the minors. While Saunders and Reyes are important for the team, the Navarro news is most notable from a transactional perspective. Though he has not done much offensively this year, Navarro could be a useful trade piece for a Toronto club that has other needs — if he can reestablish his health and show more promise at the plate.
  • The Nationals made the surprising announcement today that righty Doug Fister is heading to the DL with right forearm tightness (via Dan Kolko of MASNsports.com, on Twitter). Young starter A.J. Cole, one of the team’s top prospects, will return to take his spot on the active roster. While hidden somewhat due to the attention given to Stephen Strasburg, there is cause for concern with Fister, whose velocity (86.1 mph average two-seam fastball), K:BB ratio (4.1 K/9 vs. 2.3 BB/9), and groundball rate (40.9%) have suffered in comparison to his usual numbers. Of course, the Nationals are somewhat uniquely suited to weather any extended absence, should that prove necessary. But for the 31-year-old free agent-to-be, the first two months of the season have left him with plenty to prove the rest of the way.
  • Hyun-jin Ryu of the Dodgers is still not even scheduled to resume throwing, J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles News Group reports on Twitter. The health of the 28-year-old lefty remains a key sub-plot in the development of the summer trade market: L.A. already profiles as a strong buyer for starting pitching, and its needs would be enhanced greatly if Ryu isn’t able to develop an upward trajectory.

NL West Notes: Alonso, Saltalamacchia, Pence, Beachy

The Padres could be facing an extended absence for first baseman Yonder Alonso following a shoulder injury sustained in last night’s contest, reports MLB.com’s Barry M. Bloom. Alonso is slated to have an MRI today after jamming his shoulder while diving to field a grounder. The 28-year-old was already scheduled for an x-ray on the shoulder today as well, Bloom notes, having been hit by a pitch there over the weekend — an incident which led to soreness that cost him two games in this week’s series against the Giants. Losing Alonso would be a difficult setback for the Padres for a number of reasons. The former top prospect is hitting well this season, with a .333/.427/.437 batting line in 103 plate appearances. He’s also the only true first baseman on the 25-man roster, and he’s been the most productive left-handed bat on an exceptionally right-leaning Padres roster.

In other news from the NL West…

  • The D-Backs made no promises to Jarrod Saltalamacchia upon signing him to a Minor League deal, writes Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic. In fact, chief baseball officer Tony La Russa tells Buchanan that the team wouldn’t have signed Saltalamacchia had he and agent Jim Munsey insisted on being added to the 25-man roster. The club has received virtually no offense from Tuffy Gosewisch thus far — though Gosewisch did respond to Salty’s signing by lacing three doubles on Thursday — but manager Chip Hale said they knew they’d likely be sacrificing some offense for Gosewisch’s glove. The D-Backs were hoping to have more offense from the rest of the order, making the need for production from catcher a bit less glaring. “It depends on how much our shortstop hits, how much our second baseman hits,” said Hale. “You can’t have it be really tough on you after the fifth hitter.”
  • Hunter Pence has yet to play in the second season of his five-year, $90MM contract with the Giants, but the right fielder is set to begin a rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento on Friday, reports Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. Pence is in line for a relatively long rehab assignment, possibly as many as 10 games according to Schulman, in order to make up some of the lost ground from missing Spring Training. Justin Maxwell and Gregor Blanco have shouldered the load in Pence’s absence, but the Giants’ collective .229/.305/.400 line from right fielders clearly isn’t equal to what Pence can provide.
  • Dodgers righty Brandon Beachy is traveling with the Dodgers and working with VP of medical services Stan Conte and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt on changing his mechanics, writes Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. The changes, made in an effort to prevent further elbow injury once he’s healed from his second Tommy John surgery, were Beachy’s idea. Conte immediately supported the pitcher’s interest in pitching mechanics and biomechanics. Beachy admitted that he’s having trouble commanding his pitches thus far in bullpen sessions, perhaps in part due to the new mechanics. While he has plenty of time to iron out the kinks, reduced control would be a trade-off Beachy would happily make if it meant avoiding another surgery. “I think I’d rather be less effective and be able to stay healthy for longer than one or two months.”


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.