As the San Francisco Giants have navigated through a tough season, one of the biggest questions regarding the organization has been whether they will re-sign right fielder Hunter Pence after the season. The 30-year-old Pence, who is scheduled to hit the free agent market for the first time after playing out his $13.8 million deal with the Giants, surely has made himself some more money with his strong performance in September.
Pence has talked all year about how he wants to stay in San Francisco, but the team did not enter into in-season contract talks with him. As it turns out, that may have been a big mistake for the Giants. After getting off to a good start and hitting 13 homers in the season’s first three months, Pence struggled through late June and all of July. On July 31 his batting average sat at .274. However, since then, Pence has figured things out, and he’s been particularly torrid during September. Over the month’s first 15 games, Pence is hitting .421 with nine homers–increasing his total to 25 on the year. If he can hit just four more homers over the remainder of the season, he can match Barry Bonds‘ 2007 performance and have the most home runs that any Giant has hit since then. In addition, he and Mike Trout are the only players in baseball with at least 30 doubles, 20 homers, and 20 steals this year.
It will be interesting to see how the Giants go about dealing with Pence’s free agent status. They’ve reportedly opened up contract talks with him, so it’s conceivable that he could be locked up before he even makes it onto the market. If he lasts until then, though, they would be foolish not to give him a qualifying offer, which is estimated to be at around $14 million this offseason. That amount of money may not be enough for the Giants to seal the deal with Pence, but at least they will be assuring themselves a first round pick if he decides to sign with another team.
Signing Pence will be a huge step in the creation of the 2014 Giants lineup. The team probably will be aiming to build a core that includes Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt, Pence, and another free agent, so getting back their hot-hitting right fielder is crucial to ensure their offensive success next year.