The Giants spent months working on plans to move their bullpens to the outfield, and the construction has been nonstop since they announced the new configurations in December. On Friday morning, as workers hammered away at Oracle Park, it became clear why the organization has been so adamant that the kale garden beyond the center field wall will remain untouched.
Hunter Pence is back, returning on a deal that sources told NBC Sports Bay Area was only pending a physical. Against all odds, the 36-year-old who rode out of here on a scooter less than two years ago actually is kind of a perfect fit for what Farhan Zaidi and Scott Harris are building this season.
The Giants want to go heavy on platoons, and that's virtually their only chance of putting together a competitive outfield. Pence was primarily a DH last year while putting together a surprising All-Star campaign for the Rangers, but he made 16 starts in left field, and he is a very seamless fit alongside incumbent Alex Dickerson.
Dickerson has not proven that he can stay healthy long enough to be an everyday starter, but when in the lineup, he mashes from the left side. In 2019, Pence batted .327 against left-handed pitchers with a 1.015 OPS. His .636 slugging percentage against lefties ranked 16th in the Majors, putting him ahead of feared right-handed sluggers like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rendon and Nolan Arenado.
Pence looked done two years ago, but he overhauled his swing, played winter ball in the Dominican Republic, found fresh legs in his home state, and returns to the Giants as a pretty solid option against NL West lefties like Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and, yes, Madison Bumgarner. A Pence-Dickerson platoon is limited defensively and certainly will need plenty of days off, but there is upside at the plate.
This deal is about so much more than Gabe Kapler's ability to match up, though. Kapler might be the only manager in the big leagues as energetic as Pence, and they share a commitment to tireless workouts, healthy eating and a constant quest to learn new things. If the two haven't exchanged book recommendations already, you can bet they soon will.
Since a somber initial press conference, Kapler has spent nearly three months preaching a new ethos for the organization. He hired a young, tireless coaching staff, one that already has spent dozens of hours debating unique ideas and taking part in bonding retreats.
Kapler, in Year One, is going all-in on culture, with two tenets that he plans to introduce to the roster next week. The Giants will outwork their opponents. They will be more prepared than their opponents. As Kapler has put it to team employees, he wants opposing teams to leave Oracle Park exhausted. He wants them to feel like they just scratched and clawed for nine innings.
In every respect, Hunter Pence, the man nicknamed Full Throttle by the previous manager, is exactly the kind of player Kapler wants to manage. He's exactly the type of man the new regime wants in the clubhouse as the next generation of Giants learns what it means to be a big leaguer.