GM Jeff Luhnow says Astros “likely to keep” veterans at trade deadline

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That the Astros are in rebuild mode is no secret. In the past, they had been pawning off veteran players in an effort to usher in a youth movement, but GM Jeff Luhnow says the Astros aren’t likely to be sellers at this year’s trade deadline.

Jesse Crain and Jerome Williams are eligible to become free agents after the season. Meanwhile, Dexter Fowler will be due a raise in his fourth and final year of arbitration eligibility, a handful of players will be eligible for arbitration for the first time, and the team will have to attempt to hammer out an extension with catcher Jason Castro.

Via Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle:

“This year, we have veteran players. If they play well, we’re likely to keep them as opposed to move them,” Luhnow said. “There’s always going to be that temptation, especially if you have an area where you think — if come mid-July we’re clearly not contending, and there’s a club that needs a guy that we have and they’re willing to give up enough to get him, we’re never going to shut that conversation down.

“But at the same time, I do think we value the relationship with the fans and we’ll make a — we’ll balance all the factors, including the fact that we do want to show significant progress.”

The Astros enter 2014 with a $50.5 million payroll, according to Cot’s Contracts, representing a significant increase over last season’s $26.1 million Opening Day payroll. Luhnow and his team has been disciplined in adhering to a long-term plan that included lots of short-term losing, but it looks like the strategy should bear some fruit in the coming years.

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.