Report: Former Texas Rangers OF Hunter Pence looking to play in 2020
By Kenneth Nash
Former Texas Rangers outfielder Hunter Pence is planning to continue playing in 2020, however it’s reportedly unlikely he will return to Arlington.
Hunter Pence saw a rebirth of his career with the Texas Rangers last season after signing a minor league contract with the club during the offseason. Pence, 36, made the big league roster out of camp and quickly became one of the most important hitters in the Rangers’ lineup before injuries shortened his resurgent season. Per T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com, Pence is looking to play again next season but admits that of the teams he has talked to, the Texas Rangers are not one.
Last season Pence hit a shocking .297 with a .910 OPS in 83 games and was named an All-Star seemingly putting him at the top of the AL Comeback Player of the Year race. He struggled with back injuries though which cut his year in half and the award went to Indians RHP Carlos Carrasco, and deservedly so. That rebirth from Pence though has given life to a career many thought was winding down quickly. Already known as a positive clubhouse presence, Pence was producing at levels near those of the best seasons in his career thanks to committing to reworking his swing in the Dominican Winter League, a rare place for a veteran like Pence to be.
For the Rangers, he’s a player many fans would likely want to see back in Arlington next season but his fit into the lineup just is not there. Limited to primarily DH and left field duties, two spots Texas has significant commitments at to this point. Willie Calhoun is set to be the club’s everyday left fielder as he searches for a season that cement himself as a cornerstone piece for the club moving forward. After his positive strides in 2019, the club has no interest in limiting his at-bats yet again meaning every chance he gets to play left field, he’ll be there.
As far as DH, Pence does offer value as a right-handed alternative to Shin-Soo Choo, but Texas also saw a late season emergence of prospect Nick Solak who at this point does not have a defensive home. It’s expected that he’ll get lineup time in the DH spot and with the Rangers current structure, giving young players an opportunity to grow into contributing Major Leaguers is paramount.
As for Pence, based on his production last season, he’ll be looking for more consistent at-bats than Texas can provide at this point, as he should be. If the Rangers make any significant moves between now and the start of Spring Training, perhaps a spot opens up, but at this point, Pence likely would benefit from finding another AL club who could use a solid right-handed bat.