Re-signing Carl Pavano leaves Twins with an extra starter

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Carl Pavano is a 35-year-old pitcher with an infamously lengthy injury history and one of the lowest strikeout rates in baseball last season, so re-signing him to a two-year, $16.5 million contract is not without risk for Minnesota, but to avoid a three-year commitment and retain him for a slight bump in annual salary from the $7 million he earned in 2010 is a very sound move for the Twins.

It also means the Twins now have six starting pitchers for five rotation spots, or perhaps more accurately four guys for the three spots behind Francisco Liriano and Pavano. And the rotation logjam will get even more crowded once 2009 first-round pick and top prospect Kyle Gibson is ready for a call-up, most likely around midseason.

It’s a nice problem to have, of course, and re-signing Pavano will look even better for the Twins if they’re able to address other needs by either trading one of Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, and Brian Duensing for good value or shifting someone to the question mark-filled bullpen with success following offseason free agent departures by relievers Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier, Brian Fuentes, and Jon Rauch.

Duensing has the most relief experience, while Slowey or Baker likely have the most trade value. And if the Twins could, they’d surely love to get out from under Blackburn’s contract.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

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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.