12/8 Carlos Pena update
The Cubs were expected to call a news conference Wednesday at baseball’s Winter Meetings to formally announce the signing of free agent first baseman Carlos Pena to a one-year, $10 million deal. Pena’s batting average isn’t pretty — he hit .196 in 2010 — but he has some other stats that justify the deal. Pena has averaged 36 homers in the last four seasons, including a high of 46 in 2007 with the Rays and an American League-leading 39 in 2009. He’s also averaged 93 walks, 24 doubles and nearly 102 RBIs in that same time frame, and compiled a .884 OPS.
Pena began his career with the Rangers — and hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo — who made him a first-round pick (10th overall). He was traded to the Athletics in January 2002, and traded again that year to the Tigers, where he played from 2002-05. He’s also played for the Red Sox (2006), and Rays (2007-10). He received $10.125 million last year from Tampa Bay. An All-Star in 2009, Pena won a Gold Glove in 2008 and a Silver Slugger award in 2007.
He’s had an interesting career, having been released twice — once in March 2006 by the Tigers, and again in August 2006 by the Yankees. He had a clause in his contract in ’06 that allowed him to become a free agent if the Yankees didn’t put him on the 25-man roster by Aug. 15. Pena actually lost out in his bid to make the Rays roster in March 2007 to Greg Norton.
At the time, Pena told Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon that he’d be back and promised he was going to “make an impact.” Hours later, Norton injured his knee and Pena was on the Opening Day roster. He did make an impact, hitting 46 homers and driving in 121 runs.
“We owe a lot of this to Greg Norton,” Maddon said then. “We got lucky.”
Pena also has a reputation as a great clubhouse guy.
“For me, a leader has got to be willing to give himself up for somebody else first and Carlos does that,” Maddon said in an interview in 2008. “He makes people feel much more important than he is.”
— Carrie Muskat