The Rays and the Rangers, of course, just made a deal involving minor leaguers, with pitcher Peter Fairbanks going to the Rays from the Rangers for infielder Nick Solak. The Rays are a viable playoff team right now, while the Rangers have fallen out of the Wild Card race and look to be in sell mode, so Pence, on a one year deal, would be someone the Rangers could deal. In addition, with Pence making just $2 million in salary with $1.25 million in potential incentives, his financial cost fits the budget-conscious Rays.
Tampa has been rumored to be shopping for a bat for a while, having previously reportedly offered Solak for Edwin Encarnacion before the Seattle Mariners sent Encarnacion to New York for Juan Then. Tampa has primarily used Austin Meadows and Avisail Garcia at DH this season, and Pence, who is slashing .290/.349/.581 on the year, has out-hit both players in 2019, though its an open question as to whether he can maintain that level of production.
Pence is reputed to be a great clubhouse guy — he was one of the players who reportedly spoke in yesterday’s Rangers team meeting after their seventh straight loss — and the Rangers have indicated a reluctance to deal him due to his influence on the clubhouse culture. That being said, dealing Pence would free up the DH spot for Willie Calhoun, who is currently toiling in AAA, and Tampa has a strong farm system for the Rangers to pick someone from.
As with Danny Santana, the really difficult thing in analyzing a potential Pence trade is what the return might be. Carlos Beltran, another quality-hitting DH with a great clubhouse presence, was sent from the Yankees (along with cash to cover his salary) in 2016 for Dillon Tate, Erik Swanson and Nick Green, but its hard to get a handle on exactly how Tate was valued at the time, and Beltran had a better track record of recent performance than Pence, who was awful the previous two years, does. Texas isn’t likely to ship Pence out for a fringe prospect and salary relief, but they aren’t getting a top 100 guy, either.