When Hunter Pence pulled up lame while running out a grounder last week, the Giants’ hopes of making another deep October run took a major blow. Pence is the catalyst of the offense, someone who makes the hitters around him better, and the entire lineup suffers when he’s not in it.
So when word came down that he’d torn his hamstring from the bone and would need at least two months to recover, the task of replacing Pence loomed large. What would the Giants do? It’s impossible to replace everything Pence brings to the team, from his skills as an outfielder to his emotional impact on his teammates. But the Giants, in first place in their division and with the postseason in their sights, had to do something.
They still haven’t quite figured out how to replace Pence, but they have three options on the table. Let’s take a look at each:
Go with their prospects: The Giants have two young(ish) outfielders on their roster in Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, both of whom are flawed players but could prove to be useful with extended playing time. Williamson has been near the top of annual Giants prospects lists for a while now and has thrashed Triple A pitching, so it might be time for the team to see just what they have in him and whether or not he’ll be ready for an everyday role this year and beyond. As for Parker, he has as much power as anyone and can hit the ball a long way when he makes contact; problem is, he doesn’t make much contact. He’s likely suited for a bench bat role unless he can run with this opportunity.
Besides those two, the Giants’ cupboard is bare as far as outfield prospects just like it has been for decades. Kelby Tomlinson has had a few starts there, and while he’s a good hitter he definitely looks like an infielder trying to play the outfield. The club recently promoted 2014 8th round pick Austin Slater to Triple A and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him in the big leagues should Williamson or Parker struggle.
Scour the scrap heap: Hey, it’s worked before. Pat Burrell, Cody Ross, and other players who’d been unceremoniously dumped by their previous teams have found success with the Giants and they could very well go that route again to replace Pence.
The recently DFA’d Carl Crawford springs to mind as the kind of pick up that might appeal to the Giants: a veteran who’s hit well in the past, has fallen on hard times, and would cost next to nothing to acquire. Plus, there’s the hilarious added benefit of the Dodgers paying most of his salary if he happens to contribute. The Giants also have Gorkys Hernandez in their system and he’s hitting well in Triple A after impressing the team during Spring Training. They also recently added Travis Ishikawa, who everyone knows can play the outfield in a pinch, as well as Chris Denorfia, who always seemed like he’d end up with the Giants somehow.
No team dumpster dives quite like the Giants can. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if this is their preferred method of dealing with Pence’s absence.
Make a trade: How good would Ryan Braun look in a Giants uniform? Or Jay Bruce ripping balls into McCovey Cove? It’s common for fans to pine for a big trade once a player goes down with an injury, and this summer, two of the biggest names thought to be on the market are outfielders. Perfect timing, right?
Probably not. For one thing, big trades don’t usually go down this early in the year with so many teams sorting out whether or not they’re a contender. Also, the Giants likely don’t want to part with the prospects it’d take to pry one of those guys away. It’s just not their M.O. to sell the farm for a player, especially considering the success they’ve had recently with homegrown talent. A trade for a lesser player isn’t out of the question – someone like Jeff Francoeur, for instance – but a major deal probably won’t happen.