The San Francisco Giants solidified a key part of their future plans on Saturday, signing right fielder Hunter Pence to a five-year, $90-million-dollar contract extension. While some will argue that the deal is too big of a gamble for the Giants, Pence provides so much value beyond the statistics that it is difficult to see a scenario where the contract could be considered a waste of money.
First of all, Pence is probably the team’s most important clubhouse presence. He gained plenty of notoriety last season for delivering the inspirational speech while the Giants were facing elimination in the NLDS, and many credit the repetition of that speech as one of the forces that caused the Giants to rally and beat the Cincinnati Reds in that series.
Pence’s leadership is invaluable, as is his spectacular relationship with the fans and media. He is a very active and positive presence on Twitter, and is very willing to interact with the fan base. He just won the Giants’ Willie Mac Award, which rewards the team’s most inspirational player.
Pence has certainly done enough to earn the contract on the field as well. Though his .282 average is not dominant, his rare combination of speed and power makes him a force to be reckoned with. Pence has achieved career highs in both steals and home runs this season with 22 stolen bases and 27 homers.
With his home run today, Pence now has the most single-season home runs of any Giants hitter since Barry Bonds, who hit 28 during his final season in 2007. He also has 35 doubles and five triples, making him one of the league’s most high-impact extra-base hitters. As if that weren’t enough, he also provides a very steady defensive presence in right field.
What really makes the Pence signing a great deal, though is the 30-year-old’s incredible durability. Assuming Pence starts in right field for the Giants in their season finale today, he will be the first player to start all 162 games since the team has been in San Francisco. He’s played at least 154 games in each full year he’s spent in the majors, and it’s reasonable to expect this trend to continue.
Pence’s healthy lifestyle, which includes him consuming large quantities of kale and riding a scooter to the ballpark every day, has been well documented by the San Francisco media, and this dedicated approach should ensure that the Giants get the most out of their investment.
While Pence may not be a top-notch superstar, he does several things really well, and he should be a key part of the Giants’ lineup for many years to come.