Scott Harris

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. 

[RELATED: How MadBum pitched for D-backs in his first spring outing]

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.

Go behind the scenes of Giants' new $50M spring training facility

Go behind the scenes of Giants' new $50M spring training facility

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Before he even answered his first question from reporters Tuesday morning, there was a clear sign of just how different Gabe Kapler will be than Bruce Bochy. Kapler's office in the new state-of-the-art facility the Giants are putting the finishing touches on includes a standing desk, and he stood behind it for 30 minutes Tuesday morning, excitedly talking about his first spring as manager. 

That's a different look than Bochy leaning back in his leather chair and tapping his massive wooden desk as he talked about his team, but for the Giants, everything about this spring will provide a different look. There's a new general manager, a dozen new coaches and so many unfamiliar players that it was hard Tuesday to tell which people were non-roster invitees and which ones were staffers. 

Oh, and there's also a new $50.6 million facility at Scottsdale Stadium that will be the spring home for all of this. 

The talk of camp on Day 1 was the actual site of camp. The Giants had fallen far behind the times when it comes to facilities, and last year the weight room, dining room and other player-specific areas were housed in what amounted to little more than a big tent. It has been replaced by a stunning 40,000 square foot building that has cut the previous parking lot in half and extends into the right-field concourse. 

There were dozens of construction workers on site because the work is not quite done, but senior management director Jon Knorpp, who has overseen the project, said the building is 100 percent functional. The Giants expect to have everything finished and cleaned up by the time games start next weekend, and next year they'll get to work on Phase II of the project, which will renovate seating and improve the in-game experience for fans. 

For now, players aren't concerned about the mess. They were thrilled to be settling into a new clubhouse that includes 10 televisions, plenty of comfortable seating, and mood lighting that can be changed with a flick of a switch:

Fun fact: The Giants have the same lighting in their home clubhouse and it was sometimes changed to blood-red before Madison Bumgarner's starts to match the lefty's demeanor. 

The new weight room is multiple floors and has a view of the backfield at Scottsdale Stadium, where the Giants do half of their work in the spring and hold simulated games. 

On the second floor, there's a float tank for players who want to recover. We weren't let into the trainer's room because players were getting treatment, but it appeared there was a massive area set up for hot and cold tubs. 

A big chunk of the footprint is taken up by an event space that will be used by the City of Scottsdale and could possibly be rented out for things like weddings in the future. For now, it holds the dining room, and the Giants plan to utilize it if the rain keeps them from working out outside. It's big enough that players can comfortably play catch or do fielding drills. 

The third floor has a lounge for players and there are already two ping-pong tables installed. There are two decks overlooking the stadium, which should allow team executives to watch some of the action as they hold meetings. 

Finally, there's a really cool touch that already makes the new building feel like home. Don and Charlie's, the famous sports-themed restaurant nearby, closed last spring, but the Giants got hold of the corner booth that was reserved for Mike Murphy nearly every night.

[RELATED: Kapler focused on competition during spring training]

Brad Grems and Abe Silvestri, who run the clubhouse, have a photo of Murph's old corner and the plan is to make it into wallpaper that can surround the booth.

Why Donnie Ecker compares Giants' rebuild to 49ers' rise to dominance

lynchzaidius.jpg
AP

Why Donnie Ecker compares Giants' rebuild to 49ers' rise to dominance

Donnie Ecker is a man of action. He would much rather show you on the field than tell you about it. 

Ecker, 33, has a big task ahead of him in 2020. The Giants named Ecker, a Los Altos native, as their new hitting coach in December. He respects the veterans on San Francisco's roster, though, he knows this team has a ways to go with turning around the offense. 

For Ecker, it all starts with being truthful when looking at the roster. 

"We were bottom three in every single offensive category three years in a row," Ecker recently said on KNBR. "Even if you're the No. 1 offense and you won the World Series, you're starting from sratch with a new team. With our hitting unit, that's a blessing. We're starting scratch." 

The Giants finished 27th in team batting average (.239) last season, 28th in OPS (.694), 26th in home runs (167) and 28th in runs scored (678). They have a ways to go, to say the least, after enduring their third straight losing season. 

Ecker is looking at a different Bay Area team that recently pulled themselves from the bottom to the top in a few seasons as something the Giants can use as a blueprint for success. No, not the Warriors. 

"What I will say is that I grew up in the Bay Area. The fan base, the community, the Giants brand -- it raised me," Ecker said, "I feel like I really understand it, and all you have to do is look at Jed York, John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan and what they've built. I was around in those in between years after [Jim] Harbaugh and there's a lot of parallels if you look at what Farhan is doing and Scott Harris and what the 49ers ... how they intellectually had a process to build a roster, used their finances strategically and objectively.

"They've really built themselves on paper for a really sustainable run. There's a process to make really smart, small victory decisions over and over and over. Even in player development we're looking at that." 

Kyle Shanahan took over as the 49ers new head coach ahead of the 2017 season and picked nine-time Pro Bowl safety John Lynch as his general manager. San Francisco had won seven games combined the two seasons before the Shanahan-Lynch duo took over. And then, Shanahan lost his first nine games as a head coach. 

[RELATED: Who starts for Giants vs. Dodgers on Opening Day]

All was not well at Levi's Stadium. But after winning 10 games between 2017 and '18, Shanahan led the 49ers to a 13-3 record this season, good for the NFC West title and No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. If they beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the NFC Championship Game, Shanahan will pull a Bill Walsh and lead the 49ers to a Super Bowl in his third season at the helm.

The Giants are projected to win only 71 games this season, but have one of the most improved farm systems in baseball. They aren't exactly on their way to a World Series this year, however, it's clear president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has a plan in place with his eyes focused on the future.