Cubs To Sign Carlos Pena
Carrie Muskat and just about everyone on twitter is saying the deal is done for Carlos Pena for a grand sum of...
I'm sure we'll get more details on Wednesday, but looks like Cubs chose to pay a little more this year and a little less overall than the 2/$14M that Levine suggested earlier. If the numbers are true, it is $2M more than they offered Berkman and I'm wondering if Pena and Co. were willing to take deferred money that Berkman was not.
Pena was the Rangers 10th overall pick in the 1998 draft and was one of the top prospects in the game in the early part of the decade ranking #11 overall in 2001 and #5 overall in 2002 by Baseball America. He bounced around four different organizations (Rangers, A's, Tigers, Red Sox) before finally settling in Tampa in 2007 where he went nuts to the tune of a 1.037 OPS and 46 HR's. He settled down to an .871 OPS in 2008 and .893 in 2009 with over 30 HR's each season before last year's .732 OPS and just 28 HR's and .196 BA. His monthly splits last year show 2 disastrous sub .500 OPS months and 4 above .800, including a .920 OPS in May. Streaky I believe is the term they like to use. He lefty/righty splits are typical with .881 vs. righties and .750 vs lefties for career (.759 vs. .675 last year).
Pena has a reputation of being a good clubhouse guy and a good defender although UZR doesn't agree. A good time to mention that UZR is also getting more and more distractors every day and first base seems to always have been sketchy in their rankings.
As for the peripherals, he strikes out A LOT, over 30% in each of the last three seasons but walks a lot too, near or over 15% over the last four seasons. His BABIP was .222 last season and just .250 the year before (.279 on his career), so hard to say for sure if he's just the victim of bad luck or seriously degrading skills.
But with a change of scenery and leagues, maybe the Cubs can get a good year out of him and either help the team or be a trade chip come July. We'll see how the rest of the offseason shakes out, but I think the deal makes sense for the Cubs in 2011. There's no burden on the Cubs past 2011 and there's plenty of reasons to to believe Pena could bounce back (and plenty of reasons to believe he won't). The risk is low and the upside is high, which is about the most the team can afford this offseason.