Giants GM Scott Harris explains signing Hunter Pence over Kevin Pillar

Giants GM Scott Harris explains signing Hunter Pence over Kevin Pillar

Madison Bumgarner wearing a jersey other than one for the Giants still remains a shock to some. The front office made a bit of another controversial decision as well when moving on from last season's home-run leader. 

Kevin Pillar quickly became a fan favorite in San Francisco for his diving catching in center field and ability to actually his the ball out of Oracle Park. And then, the Giants let the Willie Mac Award winner walk this past offseason. 

The Giants non-tendered Pillar in December, making him a free agent. The veteran outfielder was expected to make around $10 million in arbitration. Instead of bringing him back, the Giants essentially opted to replace him with a Hunter Pence reunion, costing the front office only $3 million.

Pillar wound up signing a one-year, $4.25 million contract with the Boston Red Sox earlier this month.

General manager Scott Harris further explained what went into those decisions. 

“Hunter fills an important hole for us on our team," Harris said on KNBR's "Murph & Mac Show" on Friday. "He helps us run out a very formidable lineup against left-handed pitching. He’s also familiar with our ballpark and brings leadership skills we think are going to complement our young core.

“In Kevin’s case, he was an excellent player for us last year, he had one more year of team control so he was going to be a free agent at the end of next year anyways.

"We wanted to create opportunities for our young players and invest in our young players. That doesn’t mean money, it means investing at-bats, it means investing innings in center field, it means investing in the opportunity to grind through a major league season and really prove yourself at this level.”

The Giants still seem to have question marks in center field. Middle infielder Mauricio Dubon will get innings there this spring, and has embraced being a versatile player for manager Gabe Kapler. Mike Yastrzemski is expected to start the season in center, and he can play all three outfield positions. Steven Duggar, Jaylin Davis and the speedy Billy Hamilton all are expected to fight for innings as well. 

Pence, however, will not play any center field. He is expected to mostly play left field while also helping in right as well. 

As Kapler and the Giants hope to be versatile all over the field, it's likely their outfielders will have to play multiple positions. 

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Harris is right, though. While Pillar hit .278 with nine homers and an .823 OPS against lefties last season, Pence was even better. In his comeback season with the Texas Rangers, Pence batted .327 with a 1.015 OPS and knocked out eight homers against southpaws. 

Whether Harris wants to admit it or not, money did play a factor here. But Pence does bring mentorship to a young roster, and fans already are clamoring about having him back in San Francisco.

Looking back at trade that brought Andrew McCutchen to Giants


Looking back at trade that brought Andrew McCutchen to Giants

Imagine if the Giants had a 25-year-old who can play all three spots in the outfield, hit .314 with 16 homers as a rookie, and provided more than four WAR despite not playing the whole season. A player like that would change the timeline of this rebuild and even the outlook for the whole big league team in 2020. 

That player is Bryan Reynolds, and he was taken by the Giants in the second round of the 2016 draft. For all the talk over the years about Adam Duvall, Reynolds truly is The One That Got Away, and it's a fascinating decision to look back on.

When they drafted Reynolds, Giants officials gushed about how they had scooped up a first-round talent in the second round, finding a way to get Reynolds at a cost other organizations didn't anticipate. But there wasn't much griping when he became the main piece in the deal for Andrew McCutchen less than two years later. 

Reynolds had a solid year in San Jose in 2017, but didn't flash too much power, and team officials felt lucky that they came away from that offseason with Evan Longoria and McCutchen, having stayed under the luxury tax line and kept most of their best prospects. Here's something I included in a story the week of the McCutchen deal, after talking to people within the organization: 

Christian Arroyo might come back to haunt the Giants, but the team held onto Heliot Ramos, who has superstar potential, and Chris Shaw and Tyler Beede, who should contribute to the 2018-19 clubs. Reynolds was a former top pick, but he generally was viewed as part of the organization's second tier of top 10 guys. 

Judging prospects is an imperfect science, but in retrospect it's clear the Giants made two big mistakes. They didn't see what Reynolds would become and gave up on a slender young outfielder without anticipating how much he could develop. More importantly, they failed to accurately see what they had become. 

After the Giants lost 98 games in 2017, the phrase rebuild was not used. "We hope it's a reset," one of their executives said two days after that season. Oops. 

The Giants tried to walk a fine line, adding Longoria and McCutchen but not spending much more as they tried to dip under the tax, which they would do with a midseason trade of Austin Jackson and Cory Gearrin. They were neither in or out. They didn't realize it was time to commit to a rebuild, and at the same time they also didn't go all-in on competing, choosing to be selective with their spending and leaving plenty of holes. 

We know how that all turned out, but you know what, there's one thing the Giants did right with that move. McCutchen still was a solid player, someone worthy of hitting in the heart of their lineup, and he brought some star power to an organization that was leaking plenty of oil. They were right about the kind of veteran player they were acquiring. 

McCutchen didn't make it through a full season with the Giants, but he provided plenty of highlights, most memorably in an April game that will air on NBC Sports Bay Area tonight at 8 p.m. McCutchen had six hits in his seventh game in orange and black, ending it with a memorable walk-off against the Dodgers. I won't spoil it all, but here's a reminder that the celebration is certainly worth waiting around for ... 

McCutchen became the second player in MLB history to get six hits and a walk-off homer in a game. The final at-bat was remarkable and showed the kind of talent the Giants had acquired. The trade came at the wrong time for the organization, but he was the right type of player, and he did manage to make an impact before moving on. 

Buster Posey looked like Comeback Player of the Year, Mike Krukow says

Buster Posey looked like Comeback Player of the Year, Mike Krukow says

At his absolutely best, Buster Posey can hit 20 home runs a season.

But in 219 games over the last two seasons, the Giants catcher has bashed a total of 12 homers.

Issues with the hips stripped Posey of his power, and he didn't look like an MVP-caliber player in 2019.

But according to Giants broadcasters Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, they saw the old Posey in Scottsdale, Arizona during spring training in late February and early March.

"I think what he did when we got to Arizona, is he immediately passed our eye test, where the way he was moving, the way he was swinging, he was getting his hips into his swing," Kuiper told Amy Gutierrez earlier this week. "And then it was nice to actually hear him say "Yeah, I feel really, really good this spring.' I never heard him say one time last spring 'I feel really good.' He didn't.

"He's not going to tell you how he feels. But he did tell us in spring training he felt really, really good. And judging by what we saw, it certainly looked like he felt really good."

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Krukow had even higher praise for the 2012 NL MVP and three-time World Series champion.

"I thought I was looking at the Comeback Player of the Year every time I saw him step in the batter's box," Krukow said. "It's night and day. More than a couple times last year, when we watched Buster in the box, we thought 'Is he just not seeing it? He's got no lower body.' The bottom line is, he was hurt. And we always asked him ... we quit asking him that because we always got the same BS answer. He's old-school. He's not going to tell you or anybody that he doesn't feel good because he doesn't want to create an advantage for the other team. He's going to tell you 'I'm good to go. End of story. Don't even ask me again.'

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"But when we got down to spring training this year and it was his first at-bat, he took the first at-bat, first couple of swings, we looked at each other and went 'Mmmhmm.' Now we want to see it the next day because we'd see it everyone once in a while last year, but you wouldn't see it two or three or four days in a row. We saw it every at-bat in spring training. And at the end of spring training, that was the talk of camp, really. We thought we were looking at the Comeback Player of the Year and I believe this. This guy finally feels good, he's finally seeing the ball and his bat speed is back, his hand speed is back and that is exciting for us."

Kruk, Kuip and Giants fans everywhere will have to wait to see a rejuvenated Posey take the field again. The global coronavirus pandemic has the MLB season on hold for an undetermined amount of time.

But Kruk and Kuip's assessment of Posey gives Giants fans something to look forward to when baseball does return.