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Hunter Pence Will Get Paid. Oh, Indeed.

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Hunter Pence hits home runs. Hunter Pence gets RBIs when he's not hitting well, and he gets lots of RBIs when he is hitting well. Hunter Pence plays an awkwardly fine right field. Hunter Pence swipes bases expertly. Hunter Pence trash-talks until Richard Sherman curls into the fetal position. Is there nothing this man cannot do?*

As Pence destroyed the Dodgers this weekend -- a most wonderful thing for a Giant to have on his curriculum vitae -- hints were dropped that a new contract was under discussion. The leverage has always been all Pence's. The Giants already need a left fielder next year; they can't afford to be two outfielders shy of a full deck. The Giants desperately need power. Pence has power. Around mid-year, the only things looming between Pence and a lucrative Giant offer this winter were a deadline trade (didn't happen) and Roger Kieschnick having an August and September akin to what Pence is having now (just checking... nope, didn't happen).

So here we are, marveling agog at Pence setting all kinds of impressive (but c'mon, kind of arbitrary) records, like the number of RBI over a six-game stretch by a Giant on a motorized scooter. I kid a bit, but I'm not cynical. It's a crazy fun hot streak, and he's done legitimately excellent things this year. He's played in nearly every inning of every game. His nearly flawless stolen base record (21 of 23) and above-average defense add even more value to what's become, thanks to his otherworldly streak, a premium set of stats whether you prefer old school (.293, 25 HR, 92 RBI) or -- without counting Sunday's game -- newish-school (.343 OBP / .488 SLG), or very new school (135 RC+, .359 wOBA, 5.1 fWAR).

He's capable of fine years like this one and 2011, but he's also capable of months of frightening mediocrity. We've seen both in his rollercoaster Giant tenure. So if he's going to get paid, and the Giants desperately need to be the ones doing the paying, what do they do?

They should have learned their lesson from the Rowand and Zito contracts, not to mention the Aubrey Huff and Edgar Renteria contracts: Bad contracts will happen. Make them as short as possible. Huff and Renteria got far too much money, but the pain went away relatively quickly, in baseball terms. Now, entering contract negotiations from the position that the potential signee could be horrible far sooner than expected is not a good mindspace to be in, and probably won't result in a happy union.

But realism is necessary. Make future dollars contingent upon future performance if at all possible. What if the Giants said we'll overpay you drastically for the next two years -- $20 million per -- then add a $20 million, third-year option triggered by performance milestones. Sixty million over three years is nutty lucre for Pence, but at least one-third of it would only be guaranteed by more strong work. Or if Pence absolutely insists upon three years guaranteed, perhaps the carrot of a fourth lucrative option year, again triggered by milestones, would convince him to take a lower annual average than others might offer.

Obviously I have no idea how either side will approach this or how much of Pence's mash-note quotes is contract-push posturing. But I do worry that four or five years guaranteed will come back to haunt, no matter how well intentioned or hard working Pence remains.

If the Giants had internal options, I'd watch Pence's late-season bezerker-fest and whisper only tales of caution. I would advise a hard line in the sand. But they have no other options. It's either Pence next year, and the next, or else you'll be forced to watch looped tape of John Bowker's first major league week with a bowl of kale chips in your lap. After 24 hours, you'll run out of kale chips and have to switch to Smart and Final's house brand of cool-ranch bugles.

Just pay the man his damn money already.

*One of these things isn't true.





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