The Texas Rangers have signed Hunter Pence and Matt Davidson to minor league deals, the team announced today.
The signing of Davidson, a corner infielder who will also get some work as a pitcher, was reported last week, though it wasn’t made official until today. He’s a righthanded hitter who could potentially offer the Rangers the ability to have a two-way player who can work in a mop-up role on the mound and provide depth at the corner infield spots.
The signing of Pence, however, has seemingly come out of nowhere. The Fort Worth native and UT-Arlington product was a second round pick of the Houston Astros in the 2004 draft, taken 18 spots after the Brewers took fellow Fort Worth native Yovani Gallardo, 1 spot before the Red Sox took Arizona State shortstop Dustin Pedroia, and 13 spots after the Rangers took high school outfielder K.C. Herren.
Pence became a fan favorite in Houston due to his unorthodox style and expressive facial expressions, and had four and a half solid years there before being dealt in 2011 to the Philadelphia Phillies for Jarred Cosart, Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid, and Domingo Santana. In 2012, with Pence approaching free agency, the Phillies dealt him to the San Francisco Giants for future Ranger Seth Rosin, future Ranger minor leaguer Tommy Joseph, and Nate Schierholtz. Pence ended up signing a long-term deal with the Gaints, which ended after the 2018 season.
Pence has had a solid career — he’s right around 30 wins for his career, with a .280/.334/.458 career slash line — but he’s fallen off a cliff the last couple of seasons, putting up a .260/.315/.385 slash line in 2017 and a .226/.258/.332 slash line last year. He turns 36 in April, and likely is done, but the Rangers can use a righthanded corner outfield bat, and if there’s anything left in the tank, he could be useful for Texas.