Free Agent Stock Watch: Carlos Pena

Although he has remained the starting first baseman for the second-best team in baseball, Carlos Pena hasn't enjoyed one of his more productive seasons. Flirting with the Mendoza Line for much of the year, Pena has hit .203/.331/.425 after posting a slash line of .252/.382/.553 over his first three seasons with the Rays. The decline in production couldn't come at a worse time for the 32-year-old; not only is he being relied upon by a World Series contender, but he also faces free agency this winter.

The season hasn't been a total disaster for Pena. Although UZR doesn't necessarily back it up, he's still regarded as a strong defensive first baseman. At the plate, his walk and home run rates have stayed in line with his career ratios, and a career-low .223 BABIP suggests that he's been a little unlucky. However, he's also hitting fewer line drives (14.7%) and more ground balls (45.3%) than he ever has in his time with Tampa. Given his uninspiring numbers and the fact that he's part of an overcrowded group of free agent first basemen, Pena won't have nearly the leverage this winter that he and agent Scott Boras would like.

Of course, Pena also isn't the only free-agent-to-be at first base who has seen his production slip this season. Lance Berkman and Derrek Lee have struggled as well, while Troy Glaus, Jorge Cantu, and Lyle Overbay have all suffered through horrid slumps that put a dent in their overall numbers. Players like Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, Aubrey Huff and Adam LaRoche have positioned themselves well heading into free agency, but the falling stocks of Berkman and Lee should work in Pena's favor.

Pena's situation heading into the offseason is somewhat reminiscent of Adrian Beltre's a year ago. Another Boras client, Beltre was coming off a disappointing, injury-marred 2009 campaign that saw him post a .683 OPS in 477 plate appearances. Because of his defensive prowess and his past offensive production, Beltre was still presented with multi-year offers before eventually accepting a one-year, $10MM deal with the Red Sox. Beltre plays a more premium infield position and was part of a thinner third base market, so Pena may not receive the same kind of offers, but Boras could explore a similarly incentive-laden one-year contract. If the first baseman rebounds, like Beltre has, he may earn himself a bigger payday down the road.

Currently, Pena projects as a Type B free agent, which means signing him won't cost a draft pick. Even if he were a Type A, the Rays would be unlikely to offer arbitration; Pena is making $10.125MM this year and the team plans to reduce payroll in 2011, so they wouldn't want the first baseman to accept an arbitration offer. With no compensation picks attached to him on the open market, Pena could get a multi-year deal from a club like the Nationals, who reportedly "love" him. It wouldn't be a surprise, however, to see the Boras client sign a one-year contract with an eye on improving his stock for 2012.

21 Responses to Free Agent Stock Watch: Carlos Pena Leave a Reply

  1. johnsilver 5 years ago

    The irony of the Boras “rebuild his value” plan is that the one place where Pena could fluff up his numbers is Yankee stadium, but they are well set at 1B for years to come and Pena could not see going there to be a DH when he is at least the same defensively as Tex is.

    Washington would be kind to him, as would Baltimore if Angelos would fork over the money and Pena could stomach a rebuilding team for a season.

    • Peña isn’t as good defensively as Tex. Tex gets to everything within a 20 foot radius of his position, lol just kidding. But Peña with his recent injury is, might be limited to a DH role by some teams. Baltimore would be good fit.

    • Washington isn’t exactly a hitter’s paradise. What worked in Beltre’s favor was that Fenway is unquestionably a hitter’s park.

      Maybe a year in Chicago with the Cubs, or maybe Houston, would help Pena rebuild some value? With Lee and Berkman gone, there wouldn’t be any real competition.

      Just a thought, I really didn’t look too deeply into it.

      • cubs223425 5 years ago

        Houston has Brett Wallace now, though, so they aren’t really an option. I still think Pena is my #1 FA target for the Cubs.

      • 0bsessions 5 years ago

        “What worked in Beltre’s favor was that Fenway is unquestionably a hitter’s park.”

        This has been refuted time and time again this season. The biggest thing in Beltre’s favor this season is NOT hitting in Safeco. His road OPS is actually much better than his Fenway OPS this season. Fenway has definitely helped him, but he most definitely hasn’t been a product of Fenway Park like Lowell or Pedroia are.

    • cubs223425 5 years ago

      I’m not 100% sure you can call it the best unquestionably, but it is a very favorable option. Both Chicago teams could use him, and they are fairly kind to hitters. Lee is out of the NL, and the Sox are losing Konerko and Manny to FA (I expect Konerko back, but that’s still a 1B/DH spot Pena could fill).

      Also, Texas could look at him if they aren’t ready to let Mooreland take over or if they don’t trust Davis (who does?).

      If Beltre walks, Boston could move Youk to 3B and sign him.

      The Yankees could still get him as a DH, but his glove to probably too good for him to allow that without a lot of money.

      Helton’s not getting any younger in Colorado.

      There are probably others I could think of, but not right now.

      • laxbeast428 5 years ago

        what if the yankees split his time as 1B/DH? especially if tex is slumping like how he did in the first half of 2010?

  2. Sniderlover 5 years ago

    Jays could buy low on him for a year though I think I’d prefer to see how Lind would do at 1st base. He’s played a little but very limited time.

    • moonraker45 5 years ago

      if you’re going to go after pena, might as well just keep overbay. :S

  3. wickedkevin 5 years ago

    Nationals will probably be looking for a 1b

  4. blackandorangepride 5 years ago

    I think what hurts Pena most is how awful his average is, he either hits a homerun or he gets out while homers are cool and all he needs to learn there’s more to hitting besides homeruns. I think he’ll likely head either to the A’s because he’s familiar with the coliseum or Nationals because they need another power guy since Adam Dunn is likely gone.

  5. He would be good for the white sox as a dh there really a hitter or 2 from really being great in the future unless they resign manny and konerko.possibly can go back to the tigers again there gonna need a DH and will have the money.

  6. AmericanMovieFan 5 years ago

    His time on the Rays was nice while it lasted. That deal is looking quite fair in retrospect. Too bad for Pena. What a unique situation, though. Has a career year, gets a very nice extension as a result, but the years and the dollars are small enough that he’s suddenly back on the open market without any clout. more unique than one would think. He wasn’t signed to an albatross.

  7. moonraker45 5 years ago

    I could still see a team take a chance on him, look at his division, he has to face sabathia, pettite, romero, cecil, lester… some pretty damn good lefty starters… perhaps a team like the nats, braves or texas offer him a modest 2 year deal worth 9-12 mil total. with a club option. .

  8. thegrayrace 5 years ago

    Even as bad as Pena’s season has been, his OPS is still higher than James Loney’s. The Dodgers need some more power in their lineup, and Dunn and Konerko will likely be out of their price range. Perhaps they give Pena a look.

  9. jeffmcduffie 5 years ago

    Pena stinks. His defense is good. He would be a great player on a team filled with superstars, like Boston. He will be a stinker for anyone who pays him top dollar. The guy doesn’t make enough contact. Ideal situation for him is Washington Nationals.

  10. quintjs 5 years ago

    I frankly see Pena staying in Tampa – I just don’t think the market will be there for his services and Tampa is a good place for him.

    • Just_MLB 5 years ago

      Bingo !Tampa will still need a bat.There wont be people knocking down his door…therefore limiting his options.1 year 10 million dollar deal.

  11. bbxxj 5 years ago

    Outside the box destination:

    While I think he should/will stay in Tampa, I think Pittsburgh would be a great destination for Pena on a one year deal. PNC park is friendly to left handed power hitters and he could rack up RBI numbers hitting fourth behind the speedy and on base McCutchen/Tabata/Walker. His walk rate does make his batting average bearable but his power and defense would be a huge boost for that young Pirates team.

    Maybe he signs a 1/8.5 deal and rebuilds his value while still young enough to sign a 3yr deal and the Pirates get a respecable MLB first basemen to fill out their already strong – but incomplete – group of young position players.

    • AmericanMovieFan 5 years ago

      Don’t you love an industry where someone can make $8,500,000 to ‘rebuild’ his value?

  12. JDortmunder 5 years ago

    He loves Tampa. But like Dunn was two years ago, I think he’s going to be shocked at the dh/1b market. As for rebuilding his value the guy was designated by the RS a few seasons ago. I think he’ll take the best multi-year available.

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