The Chicago Cubs may have missed out on signing Adam Dunn, so they signed another left-handed power bat to play first-base, Carlos Pena. Pena struck out 33% of the time last season, but he did struggle with plantar fasciitis. Was last season’s .196 average due to injury or diminished skills? Are the Cubs a better team with Carlos Pena?
It was no secret that the Chicago Cubs wanted to sign Adam Dunn this off-season. He has murdered them at Wrigley Field as an opponent since he came up with the Cincinnati Reds. He bats left-handed, has excellent power, near the top of the league in on-base percentage, but also near the top in strikeouts. They would have played Dunn at first-base, which has been vacant since they traded Derrek Lee at the trading deadline. Since they missed out on Dunn, they needed to sign another power left-handed first-baseman and they chose former Tampa Bay Ray, Carlos Pena. Pena has many qualities that Dunn possesses, but they differ in two major ways. Pena’s batting average and on-base percentage are very poor, but he does bring gold-glove defense to the position.
Pena and the Cubs agreed on a one-year deal worth $10 million dollars. It makes sense for Chicago to take a risk on Pena, since this is more of a tryout. If Pena turns things around and produces, he could get a longer deal after the season.
Pena, 33, will be reunited with hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who was the hitting coach with the Texas Rangers when Pena came up in that organization. His best season was in 2007 when he hit 46 homers, batted .282 and drove in 121 runs. He fell off a bit, but he has been selected to an All-Star game back in 2009.
The Tampa Bay Rays will miss Pena’s power, but due to their payroll issues, they were forced to let him walk. They are also let Joaquin Benoit, Carl Crawford, and Rafael Soriano go un-signed. The team is also rumored to be trading shortstop, Jason Bartlett for cheaper talent. The Rays loss could be the Cubs gain, but time will tell.
Where will Pena hit in the order? He will probably bat 4th or 5th, depending on where new manager, Mike Quade, moves Aramis Ramirez in the order. The Cubs need to protect Ramirez in the order, something they have tried to do for awhile. Milton Bradley was supposed to do that, but that was a disaster. The Cubs batting order should look a little different next season, since they are attempting to move Kosuke Fukudome. Tyler Colvin had a breakout rookie campaign and he played his way into the starting lineup, making Fukudome expendable.
The Cubs are a more balanced team with Pena in the line-up, but fans have to know that he’s a second-half player. If he starts the season off slow, don’t worry, he usually turns it up after the All-Star break. Once the weather starts to warm up at Wrigley, he could be a very fun player to watch. The Cubs have no pressure this season, they aren’t expected to be a playoff team. The pressure of the Rays being a contender could have gotten to Pena, so a year on the Cubs could turn back the clock…and let’s hope so