The 35-year-old Pena hit .209/.324/.350 in 325 plate appearances for the Astros this season after signing a one-year, $2.9MM contract with Houston in the offseason. He was designated for assignment and released in late July. In parts of 13 Major League seasons, Pena is a .233/.348/.465 hitter with 285 home runs. Pena doesn't appear to have an starting spot on the team's roster, given the presence of Eric Hosmer and Billy Butler, but he could serve as a veteran bench bat down the stretch.
July 21: The Astros have designated Carlos Pena and Ronny Cedeno for assignment, Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Cedeno's departure clears the way for Jonathan Villar, who has been promoted and will be the Astros' new starting shortstop.
Pena was hitting .209/.324/.350, continuing his longstanding trend of struggling to hit for average — he still takes plenty of walks, but he hasn't posted a batting average above .227 since 2008. He signed a one-year, $2.9MM contract with the Astros in December. Brett Wallace and Chris Carter appear likely to take over much of Pena's playing time at first base.
Cedeno was hitting .220/.260/.298 in 141 at bats. He signed with the Astros in March after being released by the Cardinals. Villar, 22, was hitting .278/.342/.444 for Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Astros acquired him, along with J.A. Happ and Anthony Gose, when they sent Roy Oswalt to the Phillies in 2010.
Pena, 34, is expected to split first base and DH duties with Brett Wallace according to Knobler. He hit just .197/.330/.354 in 600 plate appearances for the Rays this past season, though he did hit 19 homers as well. Pena has hit .206/.337/.408 over the last three seasons, so the Astros are counting on him to continue drawing walks and hitting the ball over the fence.
WEDNESDAY, 7:52pm: The Astros have touched base with Berkman and his agent, GM Jeff Luhnow told Dave Zangaro of CSNHouston.com. The talks are not too far along, as Luhnow expects a conclusion by early next year.
MONDAY, 12:26pm: As they prepare to move to the American League West in 2013, the Astros are looking for a player they didn't need in the National League: a designated hitter. According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports (via Twitter), Houston would like to add Lance Berkman if the price is reasonable, with guys like Travis Hafner and Carlos Pena also potentially in the mix.
Berkman expressed some interest last month in rejoining the Astros, and Houston was said to be one of a handful of teams kicking the tires on the switch-hitter. However, even after an injury-plagued 2012, there's no guarantee Berkman would come cheap. Pena, coming off a .197/.330/.354 season with the Rays, and Hafner, who was limited to 63 games in '12, both figure to come cheaper than Berkman.
The Red Sox handed out their second three-year, $39MM contract of the Winter Meetings today when they signed Shane Victorino. Here are some more links pertaining to the team…
- Boston made a "competitive" offer to Dan Haren before he signed with the Nationals, tweets Gordon Edes of ESPN Boston.
- Victorino's contract "vaults to the top of the rankings of the worst contracts signed so far this offseason" in the mind of ESPN's Keith Law (Insider req'd). Law writes that with a .244/.311/.391 line in his last 1388 plate appearances versus right-handed pitching, Victorino can be considered a platoon outfielder but still got paid like a starting player.
- The Red Sox still need someone to back-up Mike Napoli at first base, writes Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com. While names like Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman are on the market, general manager Ben Cherington would prefer the backup to be someone who can play multiple positions.
Some links as Saturday turns into Sunday…
- The Indians offered Carlos Pena a one-year deal worth $8MM, reports Paul Hoynes of The Cleveland Plain-Dealer. Pena took less money (one-year, $7.25MM) to return to the Rays, however.
- One of the two sides will have to get creative for Roy Oswalt to land with the Cardinals, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. He says the team's motives are unclear as well, noting that St. Louis recently checked in on Edwin Jackson.
- Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler says that he doesn't have anything new to report on a possible long-term extension, writes Richard Durrett of ESPN.com. Kinsler added that there haven't been many discussions with the club in regards to a new deal, but we know that there has been some conversation.
- More from Durrett, as he writes that Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison isn't concerned about hearing Roy Oswalt's name being connected to the club. Harrison would likely be bumped out of the rotation if Texas signs the veteran, but Harrison says that he's okay with moving to the bullpen.
The Rays have signed Carlos Pena to a one-year deal that will bring the powerful first baseman back to Tampa Bay, the team announced. The Scott Boras client will earn $7.25MM in 2012.
“Carlos is one of the most accomplished players in team history and he is a great fit for our club in 2012 both on and off the field,” Rays executive VP of baseball operations Andrew Friedman said. “He adds to our offense with his power while maintaining the high defensive standard we seek.”
Pena, 33, posted a .225/.357/.462 line with 28 home runs in 606 plate appearances for the Cubs in 2011. He earned $10MM last, when the Rays spent $42MM on their entire Major League payroll. Pena averaged 36 home runs and a .238/.368/.516 line in his four seasons in Tampa Bay from 2007-10. Just 9.36% of 15,700 people who participated in MLBTR's December poll expected Pena to return to Tampa Bay.
The Rays have added substantial power to the lineup in Pena and Luke Scott. Casey Kotchman, who played first base for the Rays in 2011, will presumably sign elsewhere — possibly in Cleveland — now that the Rays no longer have an opening at first base. Potential suitors for Pena such as the Yankees, Tigers and Indians will have to turn elsewhere for power bats.
The Cubs offered Pena arbitration after the season, so they'll earn a compensatory draft pick for losing the Type B free agent. However, the Rays don't have to surrender a pick to add Pena. Pena ranked 16th on MLBTR's list of top free agents entering the offseason.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports first reported the agreement, after Yahoo's Tim Brown reported that the Rays were "in pretty deep" with Pena. Photo courtesy Icon SMI.
On Tuesday the Tigers learned that they'll be without Victor Martinez for the 2012 season and the club won't be able to truly replace everything that he brings to the lineup, writes Jayson Stark of ESPN.com. Only four other players matched or bested the 33-year-old's .330/.380/.470 slash line last season: Adrian Gonzalez, Ryan Braun, Michael Young and Miguel Cabrera. Stark takes a look at Detroit's options and much more in tonight's column:
- Before Carlos Pena re-upped with the Rays, it appeared he was at the top of the Tigers' list. Now, Stark says that the club could deal for Bobby Abreu, sign Yoenis Cespedes, or bring Johnny Damon back for another go-round in Detroit. Outside of those players, the club could look into left-handed-hitting free agents such as Hideki Matsui, Raul Ibanez, J.D. Drew, and Kosuke Fukudome. Right-handed options include Vladimir Guerrero, Magglio Ordonez, Cody Ross, and Derrek Lee.
- One club official estimated that he had about a dozen conversations with the Mariners this winter and Michael Pineda's name never came up. That's probably because M's GM Jack Zduriencik wanted young, controllable, impact bats like Jesus Montero, Mike Stanton, and Logan Morrison and only dangled the pitcher to those teams. Eventually, it was the Yanks who made the deal.
- There are also two "conspiracy theories" floating around regarding the deal. One school of thought has people wondering if Pineda's fading velocity down the stretch trigged the M's to trade him. There are also clubs wondering if the Yankees had concerns about Montero's mental make-up.
- There has never been a team in history with three $20MM-a-year pitchers, but the Phillies will have to be the first if they want to hang on to Cole Hamels. The club has been hoping that Hamels would take a Jered Weaver-type deal, but agent John Boggs wants more. Stark believes that this is due in part to his view of C.C. Sabathia and Ryan Howard. Sabathia was the last dominant left-hander to hit the market at age 28 and Howard comes up in conversation because the Phillies gave him top-of-the-market dollars two years before free agency.
- One team executive said that "Next year this time, the Dodgers will be THE team calling up every marquee free agent. They're going to have serious money. They'll be the Yankees West."
- Rockies GM Dan O'Dowd has amassed so much controllable starting-pitching depth, he might turn around and trade an arm or two to replenish his position-player prospect pool. Earlier today, O'Dowd shipped Kevin Slowey to the Indians for right-handed reliever Zach Putnam.
- The Angels are downplaying the possibility that they'll add a closer to supplant Jordan Walden. They've been looking for another left-handed reliever, they've checked in on Brad Lidge, and now they're basically "looking to deepen their supporting cast," according to one exec.
- Agents who have spoken with the Yankees say that, despite rumors they could sign a DH-type like Damon, Matsui or Ibanez, the team isn't too hungry for a bat. One source says that, in truth, the Yankees have told agents that a veteran DH is actually "a very low priority."
Earlier today we learned that 28-year-old Fausto Carmona is actually 31-year-old Roberto Hernandez Heredia, and that the right-hander might not be able to secure a visa to the United States anytime soon. MLB.com's Jordan Bastian says (on Twitter) that it's unclear if the Indians will be able to void Heredia's contract, plus he's not sure they would do that even if it is an option. Here's the latest from the AL Central…
- Twins GM Terry Ryan told MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger that he's not ruling out the possibility of adding some more pitching (Twitter link). "I don't think you should ever say you're set to go," said Ryan.
- A top Royals official told Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star that he'd "be really surprised" if the team signs or trades for another starting pitcher before Spring Training (Twitter link). Dutton says the team wants to get a look at its in-house options.
- Royals GM Dayton Moore confirmed Dutton's report, telling Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports: “We could have probably jumped in there on some pitchers who were traded, but we need another year to find out what we have here with guys like Chris Dwyer, Jake Odorizzi and [Mike] Montgomery … We may be more receptive to a deal like that next year"
- The Indians remain interested in Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter). We've heard about their interest in both players throughout the offseason.
- The Indians signed Jeremy Accardo to a minor league contract earlier today, and Tom Withers of The AP has the details (on Twitter). Accardo will make $825K if he's on the 40-man roster, with another $300K in incentives.
- Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN provides the details of Joel Zumaya's contract with the Twins (on Twitter). The right-hander is guaranteed $400K of his $850K base salary, and he'll get all of it if he makes the team to start the season.
The Rays are "in pretty deep" on Carlos Pena, their first baseman from 2007-10, Yahoo's Tim Brown tweets. The Boras Corporation represents the first baseman, who's one of the top free agents remaining.
Pena, 33, posted a .225/.357/.462 line with 28 home runs in 606 plate appearances for the Cubs in 2011. Just 9.36% of 15,700 people who participated in MLBTR's December poll expected Pena to return to Tampa Bay. He earned $10MM in 2011, when the Rays spent $42MM on their entire Major League payroll.
The Rays, who recently signed Luke Scott, still have an opening at first base. Casey Kotchman played the position in 2011 and would sign elsewhere — possibly in Cleveland — if the Rays complete a deal with Pena. Pena averaged 36 home runs and a .238/.368/.516 line in his four seasons in Tampa Bay.
This post was first published January 20th, 2012.