Rays Mulling Plans For Pena, Baldelli

We’ll start with the positive vibes: the Rays unearthed Carlos Pena from the free talent pool this year, and he’s got a decent shot at besting the franchise home record of 34 (held jointly by Jose Canseco and Aubrey Huff).  He could also top Canseco’s team-best .563 SLG from 1999.

Pena, a Scott Boras client, is making just $800,000 this year.  Talk about bang for your buck.  He’ll have about four years of big league service time after this season, meaning he’s under team control and could go to arbitration.  He’s set to reach free agency after the 2009 season, in my estimation.  Going to arbitration with him is the low-risk option, as the Rays would just be on the hook for one year.  The two sides might be able to come to an agreement in the $4MM range, even. 

Another option, suggested by Marc Topkin, is to sign Pena to a three-year deal with an option.  Pena is loves Tampa Bay; he’s up for the idea.  A three-year pact would buy out the first year of free agency.  Would $21MM be enough?  Most commenters at D-Rays Bay seem in favor of a multiyear contract.

The negative vibes: what to do with Rocco Baldelli?  He’s locked in at $2.25MM for ’08.  Then he’s got a $6MM club option with an unfortunate $4MM buyout for ’09.  The 2010 and 2011 options ($8MM and $9MM) must be exercised together and come with a $2MM buyout.  Baldelli seemed ready to break out after a strong 92 game stint last year.  But this season has been completely lost to injuries.  B.J. Upton now owns center field, leaving Baldelli to share DH with Jonny Gomes if he can take the field. 

I don’t see how the Rays can trade Baldelli until he puts together a couple of healthy months to start 2008.  That’d probably be at the expense of Gomes unless an outfielder is injured.  Hindsight being 20/20, the Rays should’ve taken what the Braves were offering back in December.

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