Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler is officially a free agent

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Let the bidding begin.

According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com, Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler is now officially a free agent and can sign with any team.

We haven’t heard much on Soler over the past couple of months, as he has been waiting to be cleared by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. The 20-year-old Cuban defector isn’t major league ready like A’s outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, but he is highly-regarded for his raw power potential. The Cubs, Red Sox, Orioles, Phillies, Yankees, White Sox and Indians are just a few of the teams who have been mentioned as possible landing spots.

The timing on this is key, as Soler won’t be subjected to the collective bargaining agreement’s new international spending rules if he signs before July 2. In other words, MLB teams can bid as much as they want on him for the next month. He’s expected to receive a contract north of the $15.5 million deal the Rangers gave Cuban center fielder Leonys Martin last year.

UPDATE: Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com reports that the Cubs have “done their homework” on Soler and are very interested in him. There was a report back in February that the Cubs were expected to sign Soler, so this doesn’t come as a big surprise, but it’s safe to call them one of the favorites.

UPDATE II: Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that while Soler is a free agent, he technically can’t sign with a team yet because his agent must first produce an unblocking license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) or two permanent residency documents. However, MLB likely wouldn’t have declared him a free agent if this was going to be a problem.

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.