NOV. 28: The Cardinals announced today that they’ve granted Pena his unconditional release.
NOV. 21: The Cardinals announced on Monday that they have designated backup catcher Brayan Pena for assignment in order to clear a spot on the 40-man roster for Brett Cecil, whose four-year contract is now official.
Pena, 35 in January, signed a two-year, $5MM contract to serve as the primary backup to Yadier Molina last offseason but was limited to just 14 plate appearances with the Cardinals due to lingering knee problems that persisted after he underwent surgery back in April. Prior to his injury-marred 2016 campaign, Pena was Cincinnati’s backup catcher (though injuries to Devin Mesoraco increased his role). In 739 plate appearances with the Reds, Pena slashed .263/.313/.339 with five homers and prevented 25 percent of stolen bases attempted against him to go along with slightly below-average framing marks. In parts of a dozen Major League seasons, the veteran Pena is a .259/.299/.351 hitter.
Pena, who is owed $2.5MM by the Cardinals next season, figures to clear waivers and become a free agent (though the team can certainly attempt to trade him before exposing him to waivers). At that point, he’ll be eligible to be signed by any club, and his new team would be on the hook only for the league minimum. Any salary he earns with a new team will be subtracted from what the Cardinals owe him, but St. Louis will be on the hook for at least $2MM to Pena in 2017.