The SF Giants have been forced to deal with a struggling Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval.
The beginning of the 2020 MLB season has yielded mixed results for the SF Giants. The team has seen encouraging signs from both Mike Yastrzemski and Donovan Solano. However, they have also seen a pair of Giants icons struggle during the first portion of the shortened campaign.
Veterans Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval have both been disappointing so far this season. So much so that it is likely that each player’s name may be mentioned as potential casualties as rosters shrink from 30 players to 28.
Here’s a look at the issue and a solution.
Hunter Pence, OF, SF Giants
Pence’s struggle has been the most surprising. While the outfielder is 37-years-old, he was an All-Star as early as last season. The emergence of the universal DH spot also let many (myself included) thinking that he would thrive in his first season back in the Bay Area.
However, the results have been the opposite thus far. Pence is just 1-for-29 on the season (a .034 average) and has eight strikeouts.
Some of this poor play can likely be attributed to a shortened, inconsistent, spring training and an unprecedented season. However, it’s fair to wonder whether the outfielder’s age has finally caught up to him.
Pablo Sandoval, 1B, SF Giants
The veteran infielder has spent 11 of his 13 major league seasons in San Francisco. He, like Pence, is a former star who is in the twilight of his career. Sandoval is hitting just .206 on the year (7-for-34). At age 34, he is also likely limited to either first base or DH.
While the sample size is small, the longtime Giants infielder will need to improve his quality of play quickly if he intends to keep his spot in the lineup.
With both Pence and Sandoval off to such poor starts, the question must be raised. What should the Giants do with their struggling veterans? Is either worth releasing? Or at the very least being benched?
I would not go so far as to cut either player. The fact remains that both have been productive major leaguers as recently as 2019. Either player could get hot at any time and completely change their narrative.
It’s also not as though the Giants are expected to be a serious contender for the postseason this season.
While the rebuilding franchise could elect to bench the duo in favor of developing younger talent, their wisest option may be to make sure Pence and Sandoval continue to receive semi-consistent at-bats.
In the worst-case scenario, both players could be valuable as leaders in the clubhouse. In the best case, they can turn their seasons around and develop some value as trade chips.
Regardless, there seems to be little reason to cut or demote either player at this juncture.
Fans in the Bay Area are hoping either player can add a bit of nostalgia to the season by producing as they did during the franchise’s recent championship runs.