Carlos Pena Rumors
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.
The Cubs are informing other teams that they will not trade Carlos Pena before tomorrow's deadline, reports ESPN's Buster Olney (on Twitter). At least one team - the Pirates - inquired about his availability. The 33-year-old Pena is hitting .224/.338/.445 with 20 homers this year, and will become a free agent after the season.
It's been awfully quiet on the Pirates rumor front lately, but maybe that's just because the team's front office is keeping a lid on it. The latest:
- Talks between the Pirates and A's about Josh Willingham are finished, according to ESPN.com's Buster Olney (on Twitter). The talks never intensified.
- The Pirates and A's are talking, tweets Jon Paul Morosi, as Oakland can fill the Pirates' need for a bat and a reliever.
- The Pirates inquired on Carlos Pena but sensed the Cubs weren't motivated to trade him, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. The Bucs are not sure that Pena's predecessor, Derrek Lee of the Orioles, is an upgrade for them. I think he would be.
- The Pirates had interest in lefty Charlie Furbush before the Tigers sent him to Seattle today, tweets Troy Renck of the Denver Post.
Another must-read column from ESPN's Jayson Stark...
- Stark has updated his take on Carlos Quentin's availability. He says there is "increasing evidence the White Sox are talking to several teams about Quentin, one of which is believed to be Atlanta." An executive of a team that has talked to the Sox says that while they are not "bound and determined" to trade Quentin, they would do it.
- The Pirates are focused on finding a professional hitter, but aren't hot on Carlos Pena or Josh Willingham. They're eyeing the Twins' Jason Kubel, but GM Bill Smith considers his team a contender at six games out.
- Stark hasn't heard much that suggests the Braves are still bullpen shopping.
- The Indians are turning their attention to starting pitching, but players Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Lonnie Chisenhall, and Jason Kipnis appear to be untouchable.
- The Astros continue to shop Wandy Rodriguez, and Stark wonders if he'll fit for the Yankees as a salary dump type.
- The White Sox dangled Adam Dunn. Dunn has over $48MM remaining on the four-year, $56MM deal he signed in December.
- The Reds have "stepped up their calls this week on controllable middle-of-the-order bats," although it's hard to name any available hitters of that nature.
The latest from ESPN's Jayson Stark...
- The Rays listened on James Shields last week, but now they've taken him off the market for July and apparently the upcoming offseason.
- An executive who spoke with the Cubs says the level of interest in first baseman Carlos Pena has been exaggerated. That's pretty damning, since publicly the level of interest has always appeared tepid. Also, Stark says the Cubs believe Pena could get through waivers in August. I disagree with the notion that there will be a lot less money left on Pena's contract at that point, since half of the $10MM is to be paid in January.
- Kosuke Fukudome might be the one Cub dealt at the July deadline. We still haven't heard which teams are on his partial no-trade list, however.
- The Rangers are balking at including lefty Martin Perez in a deal. Perez is a consensus top-13 prospect in all of MLB. However, the Rangers will discuss their next tier of prospects - Tanner Scheppers, Robbie Erlin, Roman Mendez and Barret Loux, in Stark's mind.
- A longtime friend of Drayton McLane believes McLane's last act as Astros owner will be to convince GM Ed Wade to retain favorite Hunter Pence.
There is the possibility that the Cubs want to re-sign Pena for 2012, but otherwise trading him now would be wise. Typically trading a player at the deadline clears a third of his salary, but as I mentioned earlier this month, the Cubs could clear two-thirds of Pena's due to the structure of his contract. I've noted that the Pirates and Diamondbacks might be the only contenders in need of a first baseman, so even though the market for bats overall is weak, those teams have leverage. The 33-year-old Pena is hitting .221/.334/.445 with 20 home runs in 378 plate appearances this year for the Cubs.
The NL Central race remains tight, but the Pirates are technically above the Cardinals and Brewers at the moment. The latest on these surprise contenders...
- We haven't read much beyond speculation linking the Pirates to Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena, but Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review lists Pena, Carlos Beltran, and Hunter Pence as three bats on which GM Neal Huntington has been "stymied" so far. Huntington explained the roadblocks he's encountered so far, including no-trade clauses and finding a match in value with the other team. The GM explained that he intends to "stay disciplined and stay with teams" in hopes of the asking prices going down.
- ESPN's Buster Olney guesses the Pirates will end up acquiring a second-tier reliever and bat, he explained to Joe Giardina of Pittsburgh Sports Report. Olney has doubts that Beltran would accept a trade to Pittsburgh, and would be shocked if the Bucs meet Houston's asking price for Pence.
- In a tweet, Olney speculates that Colorado's Jason Giambi "would be perfect as a bench addition" for the Pirates.
- Alex Presley's thumb injury increases the Pirates' need for an outfielder, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
A collection of links for all the Cubs fans out there...
- Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena may have played their way into the Cubs' plans for next season, reports CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney. The Cubs hold a $16MM club option on Ramirez for next season and while Ramirez has the right to void that option, his refusal to waive his no-trade clause would seem to indicate he wants to remain in Chicago.
- As for Pena, while the Cubs have been rumored as suitors for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder this winter, Mooney says "next year’s payroll – as well as ownership’s appetite for a megadeal – is still to be determined." Pena could be brought back on a less-expensive contract to play first base.
- The Cubs continue receiving calls on Sean Marshall, but are telling all inquirers that the lefty setup man is going nowhere, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. The 28-year-old has a 3.11 ERA and a 49/10 K/BB ratio through 46 1/3 innings this year.
- ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that while outfielder Reed Johnson is cheap, a trade partner likely wouldn't make the Cubs a very strong offer to acquire his services.
- Former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick denied a Chicago radio report that he'd spoken with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts about joining their front office, writes MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Gillick says he's never even met Ricketts, and offered praise for Cubs GM Jim Hendry. Gillick is currently a senior advisor in the Phillies front office.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports brought us another edition of Full Count today while sporting yet another fantastic bow tie. Here are some highlights..
- The Marlins could wind up trading Ricky Nolasco if they fail to get back to the .500 mark. The Rangers have shown interest in Nolasco since last winter and the Yankees could look to reunite him with manager Joe Girardi. If the Fish make such a deal, it won't be in one of their classic salary dumps, it will be instead for baseball reasons. They're looking to increase their payroll ahead of their move into a brand new stadium and they could be major players for free agents this winter.
- The Rays still could end up as sellers but right now they appear to be buyers as they were looking to get Francisco Rodriguez before the Brewers swooped in at the final hour. If Tampa Bay sells, it's doubtful that they'll move any of their starters but B.J. Upton is another story. In theory, the Nationals, Phillies, and Braves could all be potential destinations for the outfielder.
- The three teams with the best chance of meeting the Rockies' asking price for Ubaldo Jimenez are the Yankees, Tigers, and Reds. The concerns with Jimenez are that he's not back to his 2009/early 2010 form and that his velocity has dropped. One scout told Rosenthal that he's not back to his ace form yet but he's getting close.
- The first-place Pirates are after upgrades but they should also improve from within. They have a number of injured players returning such as Jose Tabata, Evan Meek, and Ross Ohlendorf. The Bucs continue to search for a bat but they're not terribly interested in the Cubs' Carlos Pena.
Players who have performed well this month are more likely to intrigue buyers for at least two reasons. First of all, strong performance is an indication of health. Secondly, MLB teams have diverted some scouting efforts from amateurs to the pros since this year’s draft concluded about a month ago.
As a result, it’s fair to say that players who have been performing well this past month are more likely to draw interest at the trade deadline than players with similar overall numbers who had hot starts then cooled off later in the season. Here’s a look at some players who have been performing particularly well over the course of the past 30 days:
- Michael Cuddyer - The Twins aren’t prepared to sell yet, but Cuddyer would be a candidate to go if they do decide 2011 isn’t their year. He has a .378/.458/.633 line this month.
- Melky Cabrera - Cabrera is under team control through 2012 as an arbitration eligible player, so Kansas City’s front office may decide to keep him around for another year. His .342/.374/.470 line this month would appeal to contenders, though.
- Mark Reynolds - The slugger has ten homers in the past 30 days after starting the season slowly. He earns $7.5MM in 2012 and has an $11MM option for 2013 ($500K buyout).
- J.J. Hardy - Like Reynolds, Hardy had a power surge this month. He hit seven homers and added a .269/.306/.600 line. The Orioles are negotiating an extension with the shortstop, so there’s a good chance he stays in Baltimore.
- Coco Crisp - Crisp has a respectable .298/.364/.426 line this month.
- Carlos Pena - Like Reynolds, Pena strikes out a ton and has a low batting average. But his hot streaks can carry teams and he hit ten homers with a .240/.306/.600 line this month. Tim Dierkes examined Pena as a trade candidate earlier today.
- Livan Hernandez - GM Mike Rizzo says the Nationals will be buyers and sellers this month. Presumably some rival clubs are hoping the dependable Hernandez is available this summer, since he has a 3.62 ERA with 7.2 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month.
- Edwin Jackson - It’s not surprising that clubs are inquiring on Jackson given that he has posted a 4.05 ERA with 9.1 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month. And his 2.52 xFIP suggests he has pitched better than his ERA indicates.
- Ryan Dempster - Across town, Dempster could draw interest as well. The right-hander has a 2.59 ERA with 7.8 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 this month.
- Carlos Villanueva - Though he may not be a trade candidate in the traditional sense, Villanueva’s success in the rotation has presumably drawn the attention of front offices around baseball. He has a 2.84 ERA with 5.4 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 this month.
- Hiroki Kuroda - Kuroda will require compensation to waive his no-trade clause, but he is already drawing interest. The right-hander has a 2.30 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 1.4 BB/9 this month.
- Aramis Ramirez, Jose Reyes and Hunter Pence have been playing well, but it seems unlikely that they'll be dealt this month. I’m ignoring relievers, since many relievers have worked ten innings or less this month and that’s a minute sample size.