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.
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.