The non-waiver trade deadline came and went yesterday with nary a Carlos Pena rumor. At first glance you'd think an impending free agent with 20 home runs would be on the move, but Pena remained with the 43-65 Cubs. Why?
For one thing, Pena is moveable in August. Cubs GM Jim Hendry explained to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, "The guys that we kept, for the most part, are guys that still have a chance to be involved next year, and if we do make a trade or two in August, that’s still no more or less significant than if we made them [Sunday]." There's a decent chance Pena would clear waivers, especially since $5MM of his $10MM contract is due in January. If not, the Cubs could just hand over the contract.
Another reason Pena stayed is that Hendry doesn't have anyone to replace him. The GM explained that the Cubs had Tyler Colvin to step in for Kosuke Fukudome, but have no such replacement for Pena. Bryan LaHair has 29 home runs at Triple-A Iowa, but he's 28 and this is his sixth stint at the level. Personally this explanation doesn't do much for me, as the Cubs are going to remain terrible this year whether Pena or LaHair starts at first over the final two months.
I imagine Hendry was also limited by the scant number of contenders in need of first base or DH help. Pena is best marketed as a first baseman, and with the Pirates adding Derrek Lee it's tough to find a contender in need of help at the position.
Wittenmyer mentions draft pick compensation, but Pena is actually below Type B status at present. Plus, the Cubs have often been reluctant to offer arbitration to free agents.
One last possibility is that Pena was not traded because the Cubs want to re-sign him and that's generally easier when you retain a player. Pena, a Scott Boras client, said he'd love to stay in Chicago and is excited about the team's future, but hasn't really looked ahead to next year. The Cubs will have options, with a large amount of payroll flexibility and Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols potentially on the market.