Minnesota has six starters for five rotation spots and Kevin Slowey looks likely to be the odd man out, with Joe Christensen of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reporting that the Blue Jays “had three scouts watching” his start yesterday.
According to Christensen the Blue Jays “like Slowey and have relievers to spare,” which makes them a good fit as a trade partner after the Twins lost half their bullpen to free agency this offseason in Matt Guerrier, Jesse Crain, Brian Fuentes, Jon Rauch, and Ron Mahay.
Slowey is making $2.7 million this season and is under team control for two more seasons, so the wisdom of dealing him for bullpen help is certainly questionable. He’s never thrown more than 160 innings in a season and struggled with arm problems last year, but Slowey has a 4.41 ERA in 473 career innings through age 26 and his minuscule walk rate of 1.50 per nine innings ranks second in baseball since his debut in 2007, sandwiched in between Roy Halladay (1.42) and Cliff Lee (1.54)
No word yet on which relievers the Twins are targeting from the Blue Jays’ well-stocked bullpen, but they were linked to Jason Frasor at various points last season.
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.