By Shawn Muller–
The Chicago Cubs front office finally made a move that actually makes sense. The Cubs signed former Tampa Bay Rays slugger Carlos Pena to a one-year deal worth $10 million. I like the deal for three reasons:
Reason #1: He has power. Carlos Pena is the left-handed power bat that the team needed to take some of the offensive burden off the shoulders of Aramis Ramirez. I understand that last year with Tampa was probably his worst during his time with the club. He had a career worst .196 batting average, and struck out a whopping 158 times, but he did manage to hit 28 home runs and drive in 84 runs. Don’t let those stats scare you. Remember this is the same guy who hit 39 HR’s and 100 RBI’s in 2009, and slugged 46 HR’s and drove in 121 back in 2007. I want to think that last year was a bit of an anomaly for Pena. He was dealing with plantar fasciitis, which definitely hindered his production at the plate. If he can stay healthy for Chicago (physical report has said Pena is fully recovered), Pena should see his offensive numbers rise in the hitter-friendly Wrigley Field.
Reason #2: He has defense. The Cubs needed to get a solid defensive first-baseman and Pena fits that bill perfectly. Derrick Lee was outstanding at first base for Chicago and losing his glove definitely hurt. Finding someone to handle the lollipop (to put it nicely) throws of Aramis Ramirez and the erratic (at times) throws of Starlin Castro looks to have been solved with the addition of Pena. Carlos Pena is a Gold-Glove caliber first baseman cut from the same mold as Lee and should shore up the right side of the infield nicely.
Reason #3: His contract. I love what the Cubs did here. If there is one thing the Cubs front office has done well on a regular basis, it is their ability to botch up contracts. The Cubs front office gambled and lost in the Milton Bradley experiment. They overpaid for Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome. Of course, those are just two examples. Everyone knows I could go on for hours and come up with many more examples, but I just don’t have the time (or battery life). The Pena deal, on the other hand, was a home run. They only paid $10 million for a one year deal with Pena. There is no long term commitment if Pena doesn’t pan out and the Cubs won’t be throwing away any more money than they have to.
According to sources, he is going to earn $5 million in 2011, and $5 million in January of 2012. The $5 million due in January of 2012 will count towards the 2011 payroll, which in turn, frees up more money after next season. With the possibility of Prince Fielder becoming a free agent after the 2011 season, and Albert Pujols (I can dream can’t I) open to testing the free agency waters in 2012 as well, the Cubs ensure themselves at least a shot of landing on of the two should they become available.
All I can do for now is base my opinion on the facts presented to me at this time. And on this day, the Carlos Pena deal looks like a home run. Of course all of this can change after the season starts and Pena ends up being another front office free-agent mishap.
After all, we are talking about the Cubs…
Shawn Muller has lived in Chicago for 7 years. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and just recently received his certificate in radio broadcasting in October of 2010. Sports have always been a passion of Shawn’s. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, “Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24.