Royals find Billy Butler replacement, sign Kendrys Morales

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Billy Butler left the Royals to sign a three-year, $30 million deal with the A’s and now Kansas City has filled the designated hitter spot with Kendrys Morales.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Morales gets a two-year deal worth $17 million, plus incentives. So the Royals save money compared to Butler, but Morales is a huge question mark following a season in which he turned down the qualifying offer, waited until late July to sign, and hit .218 with a .612 OPS in 98 games.

However, in 2012 and 2013 he hit a combined .275 with 45 homers and a .786 OPS in 290 games. By comparison, during that same time Butler hit .301 with 44 homers and an .836 OPS before seeing his production drop significantly (although not as much as Morales’ did) in 2014.

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.