Mariners content to add complementary players going into spring training

27 Comments

The Mariners made the biggest news of the off-season, signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a ten-year, $240 million contract. As beneficial as the signing portends to be, at least in the early going, the consensus was that the Mariners needed to a lot more to improve on last year’s 71-91 record. They were rumored to have interest in trading for Rays starter David Price, signing Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka, or grabbing slugger Nelson Cruz.

Since the Cano signing, the Mariners have been quiet, bringing aboard Corey Hart and John Buck since then, hardly the type of signings that might help transform them into an AL West contender. Despite the lack of action, and despite the remaining big names still on the free agent board, GM Jack Zduriencik is content to avoid the big deal. Per MLB.com’s Greg Johns:

“We’re reaching out and are going to bring some players to Spring Training that aren’t big investments, but are veteran players that might have a chance to fill a role and take some pressure off these younger kids,” Zduriencik said. “I don’t think we’re going to jump in and invest where some of these dollars are going. It just doesn’t make sense when you take a 30-, 31-, 32-year old pitcher that wants five or six years and there is some history there of injury or inconsistencies. That’s a pretty big risk, and I think we have to look at this in the big picture.”

Johns mentions that, with Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez waiting to be signed, the Mariners have instead shown interest in Scott Baker. Baker missed all of 2012 and tossed just 15 innings last season after recovering from Tommy John surgery. The 32-year-old right-hander is trying to work his way back into a regular job, likely having to settle for a minor league deal.

Hunter Pence is mashing for the Rangers

Stephen Brashear/Getty Images
4 Comments

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.