3:37pm: Pena’s $5MM guarantee will be spread out evenly, paying him $2.5MM in each season of the contract, MLBTR has learned.
3:35pm: Pena’s contract guarantees him a total of $5MM, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Twitter link).
3:11pm: The Cardinals announced that they have signed catcher Brayan Pena to a two-year contract. Tom Ackerman of KMOX in St. Louis first reported the news shortly before the announcement (Twitter link).
Pena spent the past two seasons with the division-rival Reds, where he batted a combined .263/.313/.339 with five homers in 739 plate appearances. The soon-to-be 34-year-old walked at a 6.6 percent clip and struck out in just 10.2 percent of his plate appearances during his time with the Reds. Pena is a switch-hitter but is markedly better from the left side of the dish.
From a defensive standpoint, Pena has typically thrown out a respectable number of baserunners, though this past season’s uncharacteristic 18 percent caught-stealing rate was the lowest of his career. That dragged his career mark down a bit, to 28 percent, though it should be noted that the pendulum swung the other way in 2014, when Pena prevented an excellent 43 percent of attempted thefts. Framing metrics tell a similar story, as Pena graded out as one of the worst pitch-framers in the league this past season but had previously rated anywhere from average to slightly above-average in his limited time behind the dish. The Cardinals will hope that the 2015 season was an aberration in terms of Pena’s defense, and he’s instead able to replicate the solid, if unspectacular defensive skills he showed prior to the most recent campaign.
This signing figures to supplant the arbitration eligible Tony Cruz as Yadier Molina’s primary backup for the next two seasons. That makes it likely that Cruz, who is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $1MM next season, will be either traded or non-tendered before this Wednesday’s deadline, as the club probably won’t have interest in carrying three catchers on the roster.