It is officially hot stove season and, courtesy of MLB.com’s Bill Ladson, we officially have one of our first ridiculous hot stove items.
In September, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo expressed a desire to pick up a front-end starter this offseason. Then on Thursday ESPN.com’s Rob Neyer wrote that the Nats are “a potential sleeper in the competition to land” free agent left-hander Cliff Lee.
Now comes the good part. Or the juicy part. Or whatever you want to call it. Ladson heard from a baseball source this weekend that Lee is open to offers from the Nationals and “will listen to what Washington has to say.” Shocking, right?
It should come as no surprise that Lee, this offseason’s marquee free agent, is going to listen to what any and every MLB team “has to say.” Of course he’s going to leave himself “open” to their offers. He’s a free agent — free to sign with any club — and he is going to be seeking out the richest contract possible.
The Rangers and Yankees are believed to be the front-runners for his services and both clubs have the resources to get the job done. Most national media members believe that the southpaw will wind up in pinstripes, but if the Nationals want to drive up his price, more power to ’em. The Pirates might as well throw in a bid too. And is that the Royals on Line 2?
Hunter Pence was thought to be on his way to retirement after a lackluster 2018 season with the Giants. As he entered his mid-30’s, Pence spent a considerable amount of time on the injured list, playing in 389 out of 648 possible regular season games with the Giants from 2015-18.
Pence, however, kept his career going, inking a minor league deal with the Rangers in February. He performed very well in spring training, earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Pence hasn’t stopped hitting.
Entering Monday night’s game against the Mariners, Pence was batting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in 109 plate appearances, mostly as a DH. Statcast agrees that Pence has been mashing the ball. He has an average exit velocity of 93.3 MPH this season, which would obliterate his marks in each of the previous four seasons since Statcast became a thing. His career average exit velocity is 89.8 MPH. He has “barreled” the ball 10.4 percent of the time, well above his 6.2 percent average.
What Pence did to a baseball in the seventh inning of Monday’s game, then, shouldn’t come as a surprise.
That’s No. 9 on the year for Pence. Statcast measured it at 449 feet and 108.3 MPH off the bat. Not only is Pence not retired, he may be a lucrative trade chip for the Rangers leading up to the trade deadline at the end of July.