Surprising A’s are pursuing a shortstop

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With Cliff Pennington continue to hover around the Mendoza Line, the A’s are hunting for a shortstop, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports.

The A’s are winners of nine of their last 10 games and are now 46-43 for the season, putting themselves right in the mix for a wild card spot.

Rosenthal lists Toronto’s Yunel Escobar and Arizona’s Stephen Drew as possibilities for the A’s. The Jays might be willing to move Escobar with Adeiny Hechavarria putting up decent numbers at Triple-A Las Vegas, particularly if it would get them some immediate pitching help. Escobar, though, has been quite a disappointment himself this season, hitting .251/.299/.339 in 342 at-bats.

The A’s would probably be better off upgrading at third rather than at short. As terrible as Pennington has been with the bat this year — he’s hitting .203/.266/.290 — he still offers fine defense, and he’s been a perfectly respectable hitter in the past (he finished with identical .687 OPSs in 2010 & ’11). He’s a better bet than Brandon Inge to serve as an average regular over the rest of the season.

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.