What the acquisition of Hunter Pence means for the future of the San Francisco Giants

Hunter Pence was acquired last week from the Phillies for Nate Schierholtz, Tommy Joseph and Seth Rosin

When the Giants traded for Freddy Sanchez in 2009, MoreSplashHits was wary of trading away pitching prospect Tim Alderson.

But that deal worked out for the Giants, as Sanchez was a key member of the 2010 World Series title team, and Alderson has not amounted to much.

When the Giants traded for Carlos Beltran last year, MoreSplashHits was wary of trading away Zach Wheeler.

That deal did not work out for the Giants, as Beltran struggled, then got hurt, then got hot, but a bit too late to help the Giants make the playoffs. Meanwhile, Wheeler was just promoted to Triple-A for the Mets last week.

So when the Giants traded for Hunter Pence last week, MoreSplashHits was again wary. But it wasn’t because of the players the Giants gave up — OF Nate Schierholtz, C Tommy Joseph and P Seth Rosin.
Schierholtz was basically on his way out of San Francisco, basically request a trade. Schierholtz had been given the chance to win the starting right field job each of the past three seasons, but was unable to do so. We still think Schierholtz will be a good big-league outfielder, in the right lineup and in the right ballpark. But in San Francisco, he was going to be little than a good reserve outfielder.

Joseph was the center piece of the deal. He was the No. 4 prospect in the Giants system according to Baseball Prospectus.

But with Joseph a catcher, it was an area of strength of the Giants. Their best player is a catcher in Buster Posey. They also have a young backup in Hector Sanchez. And Andrew Susac, the No. 6 Giants prospect, is playing well at Class A San Jose.

Rosin, once on the Giants’ list of top-20 prospects, has faded in the past year or so to a marginal prospect.

So the concern wasn’t as much on what the Giants gave up to get Pence, but what the acquisition of Pence would mean to the organization going forward.

Pence is earning $10.4 million this season in his third year of arbitration. He will have one more year of arbitration, which will likely put his 2013 salary around $13-$14 million.

With Melky Cabrera expected to require a multi-year deal at a similar per-season salary, it left us to wonder whether the Giants could afford an 2013 outfield that consists of both Pence and Cabrera.

Giants GM Brian Sabean said there is room in the budget for both.

“It became apparent we were going to have flexibility this offseason,” Sabean said. “I’m sure everybody’s curious if we have enough room (to re-sign Cabrera) after Pence, and we do.”

Sabean also said he’d like to keep Pence beyond 2013.

Well, that’s encouraging. It’s also encouraging that the Giants brass was willing to take on a salary like Pence’s ($10.4 million) in exchange for Schierholtz ($1.3 million).

It may be a sign that the Giants are willing to enter 2013 with a payroll significantly above the current $130 million.

By MoreSplashHits’ calculations, the Giants would have about $25 million in 2013 to re-sign Cabrera, add another outfielder and a starting second baseman.

If they bring back Cabrera and Pence, that would cost in the neighborhood of $27 million for 2013.

That would leave the Giants with a budget of $132 million for 2013 and still in need of a second baseman, as it does not appear there is one ready to make the jump to the majors from within the system.

And they would need to find someone to play center field, as a payroll that includes Cabrera and Pence would almost certainly take Angel Pagan out of the mix. Pagan is set to make $7-$8 million a year in free agency last season. Plus, they wouldn’t want to block the path of top prospect Gary Brown, who after a slow start is playing well at Double-A Richmond. Brown is hitting .287 with a .349 OBP, seven HRs, 37 RBI and 64 runs.

But unless Brown is promoted to Triple-A very soon, it doesn’t seem likely that he will be an option to start in center in 2013 for the Giants. And Gregor Blanco’s struggles doesn’t really make him a strong candidate either.

So even if the Giants are able to bring Cabrera back, there are still questions lingering for 2013.

Here’s a closer look at the prospects the Giants recently dealt away:

  • C Tommy Joseph, 21, was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft out of Horizon High School in Scottsdale, Arz. Joseph hit 16 HR, 68 RBI and .236 in 117 games in Class A Augusta in 2010. He hit 22 HR, 95 RBI and .270 in 127 games for Class A San Jose in 2011. This season for Double-A Richmond, he had 8 HR, 38 RBI and hit .260 in 80 games.
  • P Seth Rosin is a 6-6, 23-year-old right-handed pitcher who was drafted in the fourth round of the 2010 draft by the Giants out of Minnesota. Rosin went 2-3 with a 3.34 ERA in 89 innings for Class-A August in 2011, making 10 starts in 39 games. He was 2-1 with a 4.31 ERA in 34 games (five starts) for Class A San Jose this season. He struck out 68 in 56.1 innings with 18 walks.
  • 2B Charlie Culberson (traded to Colorado for Marco Scutaro), 23, was drafted in the first round in the 2007 (51st overall, sandwich pick) out of Calhoun (Ga.) HS. The Giants had high hopes for Culberson. But his minor-league career peaked in 2010 for Class A San Jose when he hit .290 with 16 HR and 71 RBI. After hitting .259 with 10 HR and 56 RBI for Double-A Richmond last season, he hit .236 with 10 HR an 53 RBI in 91 games for Class A Fresno this season. He had a brief spell with the Giants in May when Ryan Theriot went on the DL. But he was 3 for 22 (.136) with 7 Ks and one RBI in six games.

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