DALLAS — The second half tailspin continued for the Rangers, who, by the time you read this, could be on the verge of losing their third series in a row. Up until just before the All-Star break, Texas hadn’t lost a series since May. Texas finally saw their eight-game losing streak come to an end on Tuesday night but things have taken a very swift turn for the bleak for the Rangers since they regrouped after the All-Star break.
With the losses come talks of selling which have intensified and continue to grow, especially as specific players and teams are starting to be mentioned. It’s becoming increasingly likely, especially after losing as recently as Monday to one of the worst teams in the league in Seattle, that the Texas Rangers of August 2019 won’t look anything like the Texas Rangers of March-July 2019.
Who else is on the trading block?
Would You or Wouldn’t You: Trade Hunter Pence
Why You Would: Pence is in the middle of a resurgent year. Despite a late first-half trip to the injured list, Pence has been one of the most productive members of the Rangers lineup. He’s sporting a .290/.347/.575 slash line with 15 homers and 49 RBI.
At his age, at a position that already had several candidates and incumbents, the Fort Worth native earned his way onto the roster and kept himself there. He’s been a clubhouse favorite, a motivator, a leader, an experienced voice. He’s outdone everything expected of him and then some as the kid who grew up watching baseball at The Ballpark in Arlington was named the starting DH for the AL at the All-Star Game in his first year as a Ranger.
So why would you trade him again? Because all of the above, plus the playoff experience down the stretch run for a World Series contending team manifests into several intangibles that an organization like, say, the Rays or the Twins would treasure. He’s still proven that he can handle a game or two a week in the outfield, as well.
The Rays, for example, are having some trouble scoring runs lately – they also have an incredibly young group of players, perhaps feeling the pressure of a playoff race against the Boston and New York powerhouses in the American League East. The underdog mentality seems to fit Pence just perfectly and that role might be the best fit for the veteran.
On the Rangers’ side, the fact that you have any chance to get any sort of return for a 36-year old, minor league free agent signing should have you excited. Pence was a bonus for the Rangers, a pleasant surprise. If the unexpected can pay dividends, why not take advantage?
Trading Pence also frees up a spot for Willie Calhoun – whether you slide Shin-Soo Choo into the primary DH role and play Calhoun in the outfield, or let Willie show off his newfound defensive prowess, Calhoun can slide into the spot that Pence vacates.
Why You Wouldn’t: I’m not so sure that this is actually a “Why You Wouldn’t” so much as a “Why You Can’t.” Pence’s trip to the injured list wasn’t just a freak accident with an unrepeatable acute incident. It was a groin pull. He already suffered a setback that prevented him from participating in the All-Star Game. It’s the kind of injury that clubs worry about putting on their active roster, because it could be re-aggravated at any minute.
Pence is also restricted to the American League. As a primary designated hitter, a role in the National League is highly unlikely; if a club wants to go use the 36-year old as a bench player, then Texas might not be as motivated to move him, as he still carries value as a full time player, teammate, and mentor. Among the contenders, the Rays are really the only team that could make use of a primary DH. It’s a trade partnership that has worked in the past, but it’s not like Tampa Bay is going to live or die by making this single move work.
There’s also the idea that Pence is still a productive hitter and the Rangers could use those. Think about the surrounding pieces, and even on a team waving the white flag, there needs to be some sort of offense worth trotting onto the field.
At Pence’s price tag, it’s not like it’s an exorbitant amount of dead money sitting around and it's possible the value Pence could return in a trade just isn't worth losing his bat and voice to his childhood favorite team.
But the injury and the risk going forward might be the primary obstacle in trying to trade Hunter Pence. We saw when the Rangers traded their previous year's first round pick and more to the Yankees for Carlos Beltran in 2016 that veteran DH hitter types have value at the deadline. For the Rangers to find that value, Pence has to stay on the field and keep hitting.
So that leaves the question that needs to be answered: Should the Rangers trade the feel-good story of Hunter Pence to a contender for, well, anything? Does Hunter Pence's contributions at the dish and in the clubhouse outweigh the potential return in a trade? The Rangers have until July 31 to decide.
Do you think the Rangers should try to get what they can in a trade of Pence or should they hold onto the inspiring veteran presence? Make your thoughts known to Matt on Twitter @FisherWritesMLB.