The San Francisco Giants had an interesting situation in the outfield in 2013. Hunter Pence, while a bit inconsistent, was probably the team’s best all-around performer and started every single game in right field, the first time that a Giants player had started all 162 in the San Francisco era. Angel Pagan was very solid when healthy, but was out from late May until late August with a pesky hamstring injury. Gregor Blanco was his primary replacement and had some good moments, but generally was ineffective at the plate. And the team had a complete disaster of a situation in left field, where they started nine different players and had a collective team-low .337 slugging percentage.
Pence just signed a five-year, $90-million dollar extension, so he’ll surely be back in right field next season. Pagan will be entering the second year of his four-year, $40-million dollar deal, so he’s a sure bet to be in center. That leaves left field for the taking, and there are several different directions the Giants could go to fill that spot.
Based on the info that’s been passing through the MLB rumor mill recently, it seems that the most-likely scenario would have the Giants signing a free-agent first baseman, such as Cuban defector Jose Abreu, and moving Brandon Belt to left field. Though a large chunk of Belt’s value comes from his defensive prowess at first, he is capable of being a very good hitter, and would surely be an upgrade over anyone the Giants played in left this year. If the Giants do indeed decide to sign an outfielder, though, the most attractive free-agent options would seem to be Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Shin-Soo Choo.
Overall, our initial projection of the Giants’ outfield corps will include Pence, Pagan, Belt and Juan Perez, as well as Skip Schumaker, who we previously predicted would sign with the Giants and provide depth at second base and all three outfield spots.
There will be some controversy created if Perez ends up winning a big-league outfield spot. That would signal the departure of Blanco, who has been a starter for a good chunk of the past two seasons. However, Perez and Blanco possess virtually the same skill set, and Perez is younger, cheaper and a slightly better runner and fielder. Though Blanco has been a nice contributor at times, he’s terribly inconsistent, and it wouldn’t be overly surprising if the Giants non-tendered him, since he is arbitration eligible.
Perez sticking with the team also would probably mean the end of the Francisco Peguero experiment. The 25-year-old Peguero has been on the Giants’ 40-man roster for the past four seasons, and he’ll be out of options this spring. While he’s been consistently successful during his minor league career and has some undeniable skills, the Giants have never really given him a chance to succeed at the big-league level. It was pretty telling when Peguero, who is in much desperate need of major-league evaluation, received only eight September at-bats, while Perez got 47.
Theoretically, it’s possible that if out-righted, he will clear waivers and stick with the Giants, but considering that he’s long been considered a top prospect, he’ll probably be highly desired by other teams. It might be wise for the Giants to try to shop him this offseason.