The Mets have agreed to a minor league contract with right-hander Felix Pena, per the team’s transactions log. The former Cubs and Angels righty will presumably be in big league camp whenever it opens and will give New York some valuable depth in either the rotation or the bullpen. Pena was eligible to sign during the lockout because he was released by the Angels in September and did not return to a 40-man roster before season’s end.
Pena, who turns 32 today, was a quality swingman with the Halos from 2018-20, logging a combined 215 2/3 innings of 4.34 ERA ball with a 23.6% strikeout rate, a 7.7% walk rate and a 43.4% ground-ball rate. Those strikeout and grounder rates are both roughly in line with the league averages, while Pena’s walk rate checked in better than average. He’s not a flamethrowing power arm, but Pena sat 92.3 mph on his heater during that three-year stretch in Anaheim and has made 24 starts at the MLB level in addition to another 80 relief outings. He’s worked 142 innings in those 80 bullpen appearances, so he’s no stranger to multi-inning work.
A torn ACL ended Pena’s season in Aug. 2019, but he bounced back with a solid showing in the shortened 2020 schedule (4.05 ERA in 26 2/3 frames). His 2021 bordered on nightmarish, however. Pena missed the first six weeks of the season owing to a hamstring injury and was shelled for seven runs in 1 2/3 innings in his first two appearances upon returning. The Angels passed him through outright waivers not long after, and Pena went on to yield 61 earned runs through 68 1/3 innings in Triple-A Salt Lake before being released. He’s been lights out in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, though, posting a 1.91 ERA and a 27-to-7 K/BB ratio in 33 innings.
At present, the Mets’ rotation is expected to consist of Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco and Taijuan Walker, with options like Trevor Williams, David Peterson and Tylor Megill vying for the fifth spot. It’s possible one or more of those current fifth-starter candidates could land in a deep group of relievers that’ll be headlined by Edwin Diaz, Trevor May, Seth Lugo and Miguel Castro.
The Mets are widely expected to add another established arm to the rotation whenever the lockout ends, and there’s probably room for a lefty in the bullpen as well (particularly following the departure of Aaron Loup). Pena can compete for a long relief spot in the bullpen or head to Triple-A Syracuse, where he’ll serve as a quality depth option. In a total of 260 2/3 innings, Pena carries a 4.66 ERA and 4.05 SIERA to go along with strikeout, walk and ground-ball tendencies that are all within arm’s reach of the league average.