Rangers, Blue Jays are the “front-runners” for Matt Garza

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From beat writer Richard Durrett of ESPN Dallas:

Many of the same teams that have had strong interest in Chicago Cubs right-hander Matt Garza were on hand to watch his outing on Saturday night at Wrigley Field.

The Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays remain the front-runners for a trade with Chicago, according to industry sources. The Boston Red Sox, Cleveland Indians and San Francisco Giants have also expressed strong interest in the pitcher.

Garza was not great in that start, allowing two earned runs on 10 hits and two walks over 6 2/3 innings against the rival Cardinals. But he still has a shiny 3.17 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in 71 total innings this season and he’s probably the best available starting pitcher on the trade market (unless the Phillies suddenly decide to shop ace left-hander Cliff Lee).

Garza, 29, is making $10.25 million this season in his final year of salary arbitration. Phil Rogers of the Chicago Tribune hears that he will be traded before his next turn in the Cubs’ starting rotation.

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.