Free agent slugger Wily Mo Pena has agreed to a one-year deal with Japan’s Rakuten Eagles, MLBTR has learned. The contract includes a club option for 2016.
Pena’s strong 2014 campaign — he hit .255/.344/.486 with 32 home runs for the Orix Buffaloes — raised the possibility of a return to the big leagues, but that never materialized. The 33-year-old was only interested in signing with an MLB team if he could achieve a major league contract. While there was some interest, and plenty of minor league offers, Pena was ultimately never offered a 40-man spot going into camp.
A veteran of eight big league seasons, Pena swatted 84 long balls and slashed .250/.303/.445 in his 1,845 career plate appearances. Best known for his time with the Reds, Pena also saw action with four other teams. Ultimately, despite carrying above-average offensive numbers for much of his career, Pena’s defensive limitations and relatively low on-base figures held him back in the majors.
But he hit his stride upon moving to Nippon Professional Baseball in 2012 with the Fukuoka Softbank Haws. The Dominican native slashed a productive .280/.339/.490 in his first Japanese campaign, establishing his presence as one of the league’s premier power threats. After putting aside his injury-marred 2013 with his performance last year, Pena entered this year’s market as one of the more appealing Japan-based international free agents.
Pena recently became a client of Matt Sosnick of Sosnick, Cobbe & Karon. He will now join with fellow former big leaguer Gaby Sanchez to form what the Eagles will hope is a potent middle-of-the-order, first base/DH pairing.