View From The Bleachers

December 2, 2010

In the News: Is Carlos Pena a bad fit for the Cubs?

Filed under: Featured,General — Joe Aiello @ 6:00 am

The following is a guest post from Scott Caruso, former editor of Rays of Light

I was surprised earlier this week to get the following message from Joe:

The cubs are looking at pena for 1b. Can you type up a summary on what we’d be getting. I think it would be a bad move. I’d like to run the post Thursday morning.

Certainly he couldn’t be implying that signing Carlos Pena would be a mistake by the Cubs, could he?

I am here to tell you, Joe, that you are dead wrong. With Carlos Pena you are getting a proven – albeit flawed – first baseman that you can instantly stick into the middle of the lineup and the middle of the clubhouse. He’s the poor man’s Adam Dunn – without the giant slab of concrete stuck on his glove hand.

Since 2007, his first year with Tampa Bay, he has posted OPS+ values of 172, 129, 133, and 102. 2010’s poor showing has more to do with a ghastly .291 BABIP than anything else, so he’s a safe bet to rebound back into his 2008/2009 form.

By comparison, Derrek Lee during that time had OPS+ values of 130, 108, 146, and 103.

Yes, he strikes out a ton. He averages 171 of them over a 162-game season. He also, however, averages 35 longballs a season, which would have led the Cubs each of the past 4 years. He’s “clutch” – if you believe in that sort of thing – delivering a 115 OPS+ in the ambiguous “close and late” situations category. He’s the kind of guy that can carry a lineup when he’s hot.

Pena is a good, if not slightly overrated, defensive first baseman. He’ll save his infielders their share of errors (though he will make the routine play look anything but from time to time), but rarely will he lose you a game with his glove. His tall, lanky frame plays even taller, as he’s got the wingspan to pull down the most errant of wild throws.

And for those that care about clubhouse chemistry and leadership, Pena is that guy, too. Always with a smile on his face, Carlos is the first at home plate on a walk-off home run, the first to greet a teammate after a big play, and traditionally wears the biggest grin of all in the dugout. Joe Maddon and his teammates have frequently been quoted as referring to him as the heart and soul of the Rays.

Matt Silverman, the Rays’ Team President, put it best prior to the 2009 All-Star Game:

“He’s an All-Star player and he’s an all-star person. He means so much to this club. He’s been the heart and soul. And it’s something that would be very special for all of us if he can get to St. Louis.”

Look, I’m not going to lie to you. There will be nights where he’ll give you headaches. He’ll step up to the plate in the first inning and take two fastballs right down the middle to go down 0-2, and you’ll know he’s going to 0-for-4 with 3 Ks. You’ll wonder how he ever made it out of Little League, let alone to a 10-year big league career. But when he’s not doing that, he’s winning games with 420-foot home runs and helping lead a team that had no business doing so to 2 AL East titles in his 4 year tenure.

I, for one, would be incredibly sad to see Pena leave Tampa Bay. He most certainly would be a tremendous addition to the Cubs’ lineup and the Cubs’ clubhouse.

But, hey, if Joe doesn’t want him, I’m more than happy to take him back.

Scott Caruso is the former editor-in-chief of Rays of Light, and is currently available for guest blogs, feature stories, magazine articles, and Bar Mitzvahs.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids and helps people protect their assets as an independent insurance agent. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail

  • Buddy

    Thanks for sharing Scott. I agree 100 percent with your summary. If the Cubs don’t sign Adam Dunn to play 1B, I would be more than happy with Carlos Pena.

  • Chet

    “Look, I’m not going to lie to you. There will be nights where he’ll give you headaches. He’ll step up to the plate in the first inning and take two fastballs right down the middle to go down 0-2, and you’ll know he’s going to 0-for-4 with 3 Ks. You’ll wonder how he ever made it out of Little League, let alone to a 10-year big league career.”

    This is the part that scares me…….in Tampa Bay you can play like this and get away with it, here under the scrutiny of the media and larger fan base he could turn into the next Milton Bradley, Jacque Jones, or Fred McGriff.

    Chicago just doesn’t respond well to this type of player.

  • MoondogKP

    There’s a reason I like Pena besides his defense: he can draw a walk. His OBP since in Tampa has consistently been .130 higher than his BA, so a slight rebound there will get him back to superstar status. He’s better with the glove than Dunn. And, since we have the guru Rudy J. on the bench to help with guys like this, I hold out hope he can improve Pena. He should cost less in money and years, so he fits perfectly.
    With that said, Hendry will offer Dunn a 5-year, $75 million contract to ink him today.

  • Chuck

    I can go along with the premise that Pena is a poor man’s Dunn, but I would be reluctant to give him more than 2 years. Why? Because he is already 32 and his numbers are already in decline. His OPS+ numbers from the last 5 years are: 96, 172, 129, 133, 102. WAR for the same period: -0.1, 5.3, 2.9, 1.8, 1.1. This is a guy who had a monster year a few years ago and has had a couple of good years. All evidence points to this being a bad call. Don’t overpay for aging players entering their declining phase.
    Just for kicks here are Dunn’s #s for the same time period: OPS+: 114, 136, 130, 144, 138. WAR: 0.6, 3.0, 2.1, 0.9, 3.6.

  • cap’n obvious

    He sounds like a heckuva nice guy…so he should have no problem finishing last…

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    I don’t want Pena. Adam Dunn has a better career avg obp, and slugging than Pena. He hit below the Mendoza line last year. Adam Dunn is a much better hitter than Pena

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    I don’t care for nice guys. This country wasn’t built on nice guys. It was built on winners who didn’t give a FUCK about people’s feelings!

  • Scott Caruso

    I don’t care for nice guys. This country wasn’t built on nice guys.

    A nice guy who could lead the league in home runs…

  • Lizzie

    TP2, AGAIN I will request that you respect our readers and knock off the swearing. While your life may have been built on people who don’t care, this site has many who do. If we can be respectful so can you. Thanks.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    Sorry about the profanity. I got carried away with that one. Pena may be a nice guy but he strikes out a lot. He’s not a winner. Adan Dunn is.

  • Buddy

    I agree that Dunn is a better hitter than Pena, but he will also be much more expensive and will require a multi-year contract. I don’t think the Cubs are willing to do that right now. With that in mind, I think Pena or Berkman would be reasonable short-term solutions.

  • Terrelle Pryor 2

    I’d pay him the money. He deserves it.

  • jswanson

    I take Berkman over Pena. Bonus: he seems nice.

  • bob

    I would not do Dunn unless it was one year, which isn’t going to happen. I’d only do Pena for a year. This club has a ton of money coming off the books next year, I say be the Pirates or KC Royals for a year and see what some of these kids can do playing full time. Sign a Pena for one year, or LaRoche for a year, and then go after some of the free agents next year when you have the dead weight coming off the books. Next year’s first base class is phenomenal. Only other action I take is offering some of my farm system for Adrian Gonzalez. Even in mid season. Getting Adam Dunn or Pena doesn’t make us contend next year, pretty much nothing that we can do does. Unless everyone has a career year. So count the season as gone playoffs wise and see what our farm system really is.

  • Dragon

    How is Adam Dunn a “winner”? How many rings does he have? By my calculations he has been on ZERO teams that were over .500 with a win loss record since 2001 of 716-904 (liberties were taken in that I didn’t break apart his ’08 season where he spent some time in AZ). Anyway, to spend “Dunn” money on a player that hasn’t been a “winner” seems crazy. One of the arguments above against Pena was that going 0-4 is tolerated in Tampa but could he handle the pressure of Chicago, how do we know Dunn could handle it either? Cincinnati, Arizona and Washington aren’t the hardest cities to play in either.

    Of all the choices, Dunn is my least favorite simply because of the length and cost of a deal. I am much more inclined to give a shorter contract and take a chance that Pena can come back to ’07 and ’08 levels.

  • Buddy

    Pena would be fine with me, and I think he would help them contend in 2011. This division is very winnable. 85-88 wins would probably get it done.

  • Chuck

    Long-term the Cubs will be better served by putting Colvin there and letting the chips fall. That way they can go after Adrian Gonzalez either as a FA or via trade/extend. Gonzo is both better and younger than either Dunn or Pena. This view all changes if by some miracle either of them agrees to a 1 year deal.
    Now to really throw grease on this fire: Derek Jeter 2B Chicago Cubs.

  • Seymour Butts

    I gotta admit I know a lot more about profanity than I do about Senior Pena, so thanks Scott for the info. The history books are littered with guys who looked for a bounce back year after hitting the skids on a productive career. We can all think of examples where it has worked if we think hard enough, but most of the time they don’t bounce back, they splat. So, at most, a one year, incentive based contract would be sensible.
    Adam Dunn would be a nice fit..for a couple of a lower than asked for price. Probably should not happen.
    Words have the power that the receiver gives them. If one finds Fornication Under Consent of the King, offensive, I think we used the term “Gregg” around here a year or so ago to make the same point.

  • Seymour Butts

    Would Jeter accept a reasonable ( 2 yr, 5 mil) contract?, not when the Yanks have offered him way above his market value.
    Don’t think because we had a poor season, all is lost for next year. I agree with Buddy, mid 80’s in wins could be enough. And look at this years Giants, won it all with a line up even their Mothers had doubts about.

  • Joe

    I know being a Cubs fan can make us all a little delusional, but Dunn a winner? I just can’t find a way to make that a factual statement. Is .400 OBP a winner? 30 HR a winner? 100 RBI a winner? I can remember a Right Fielder we had who averaged 50 HR, and did we have a winner, no. I like how we all think with the money coming off the books we shall be saved… we still will have Sori in LF, then no 3B. From what else is out there, I would be pleased with Pena at 1B. Berkman and LaRoche would definitely give max effort, but give max production… questionable. Rudy J could help one, two or all 3 of those guys, which is worth the risk I would say, because I would rather have Colvin manning LF when Sori can’t and have a 1B besides Jeff Baker. Quade better be cracking skulls in that clubhouse to get some production out of kids… and I think he will do that and more, I’m not worried about the NL central, if we take 15 out of 18 from the Buccos we should be in great shape.

  • TP2

    How about some sort of stop-gap solution at 1B for a year and then make a run at Pujols next year? Though knowing Cubs luck, his elbow will finally give out and he won’t ever play for us

  • bob

    Joe, I wouldn’t say that 46 million coming off the books in 2012 is chump change. Fukudome 14.5, Aram 14.5 Silva’s 12ish and even Grabow at 5 mil.

    Even if you use the money from Aram to resign him if he has a bounce back year or sign someone new at 3b. 14.5 million per year gets you a pretty decent 3b. Then you still have saved around 32 million dollars from dead weight on the team.

    That is a pretty sizable amount. Sure Marmol is going to get a sizable contract and if Soto, Castro, Colvin and any other young guys play well they will get bumps but we also would have them under control for a while before a huge payday would happen and if a huge payday happens it means they are playing well. good for all of us!

    That is why I believe we should only do a one year contract on a Pena or LaRoche and let some of the youngsters play and see what they have.

    I would be frustrated if we signed an Adam Dunn at 15 million per for four years, when we could have 30 plus million free in 2012 for the amazing free agent class that is potentially available at first and second base. Potentials Fielder, Howard, Pujols, A Gonz, Brandon Phillips, Cano, Aaron HIll, Kelly Johnson.

    I would rather spend 30-35 mil per year on an Adrian Gonzalez and Brandon Philips then to have our hands tied because we paid Adam Dunn to man 1b for four years That thought made me vomit in my mouth. A veritable vurp

  • Bobbi Wickham

    I suspect that the Cubs won’t be signing Dunn or Pena or much of anyone else. They’re not likely to be contenders, even with the crappy division. The Reds, who won 91 games, aren’t going to go away and the Cardinals will probably make some moves this winter. Also management have indicated that they want to get younger which is usually code for cheaper.

    It will be a cold day in heck when the Cardinals trade Pujols to the Cubs. Their fan base would murder management in their sleep!

  • Mike W

    @Terrelle Pryor 2 what has Adam Dunn ever won? His career record is 651-795 that doesn’t seem to good to me. Carlos Pena has carried his team to a World Series I’m pretty sure that’s better than Dunn coming in the bottom of the NL Central with the Reds, Carlos Pena is a winner not Dunn, also the Cubs do need the attitude that he will bring, not only is he bringing a winning attitude but he brings leadership and great charisma which the Cubs need desperately, example Marlon Byrd. When he is hot he can carry the team and his clubhouse attitude will not only fit in with the Cubs but it will help all our young players grow, he is a proven leader, and winner. As a Cubs fan I want him.

    I feel Pena is a much better option for a one year deal than putting Colvin there. I would not like to see Colvin play 1b for a year then when Fukudome leaves Colvin goes back to left and he hasn’t played left for a year. I am going to be optimistic in we sign Pena for a one year deal and make a push for Adrian Gonzalez next offseason.

  • Buddy

    Dunn isn’t a boxer, so I’m not sure what his “record” has to do with anything. If you want the Cubs to sign a “winner,” they should bring Luis Sojo out of retirement. That guy has four rings, so he must be a “winner,” right?

  • Chuck

    I am not exactly sure how you quantify baseball players as “winners” or “losers” based on team record. This is not basketball where you can make some sort of argument that a player can make his teammates better. Baseball, for the most part, is an individual-based game. The players operate on an island in most situations. You can make an argument that some players (see Sosa, Sammy) destroy mediocre and bad pitching but are awful against good pitching. Is A-Rod any more of a “winner” or “loser” since going to the Yanks? Was Maddux a “loser” with the Cubs? Players, by and large, perform how they perform.

  • Chet

    Well, the Sox just signed Dunn , so let’s move on from him….

  • Lizzie

    Oh Seymour I swear like a sailor. Just not in mixed company. And especially not if I’ve been asked not to. I did love the Gregg usage though. How is that Sherm, I sure do miss him!!!

  • walterj

    scott caruso , i’m not medicated enough to watch the cubs’ #3 or 4 hitter push me over the edge 80% of his at bats . i’m sure he is a great guy , i wish him all the luck , but if the cubs can’t sign a guy that can’t hit above .250 then theres no reason to sign him .

  • Buddy

    Adam Dunn is no Aaron Rowand! That was sarcasm in case you couldn’t tell.

  • cap’n obvious

    Gregging Dunn is a White Sock next year…so we’ll see if he’s a winner or not…they certianly look to have a nice club on paper. On paper don’t mean Gregging squat.

  • cap’n obvious

    For those of who are like me, and have plenty of free time around the holidays, feel free to watch these instructional videos.

  • Doc Raker

    Pena OPS+ has been trending downward. I would prefer the Cubs to focus on players with upward OPS+ trend potential. The Dlee years of hope for a return of the mega OPS+ year is over, let’s move on in philosophy. I would imagine Pena wants to be paid on the upside of his OPS+ and not his downside. Gregg that.

  • walterj

    i could feel my IQ wilting away just by watching the videos that cap’n pointed out . odd enough …..i watched every single one . thanks for the laugh cap’n .

  • cap’n obvious

    Yes, Walter…they are satire….the homerun video is fantastic, and the hitting for average is pure Doc” raker”…

  • Big Q

    I think Peña would be a better signing for the Cubs than Dunn. Either way, the Cubs are going to miss Lee’s glove at 1st. He saved a lot of plays over there.

  • Jhan

    If the Cubs are going the cheaper route and letting the kids play, why not trade for Lars Anderson from the Red Sox? He is a young 1B prospect who could grow with the guys we have and then when contracts come off the books next year we can be serious players in free agency.

  • Jhan

    Plus I think we should try and trade Fukodome and Dempster to a team like Detroit and get back a young pitcher like Max Scherzer and that would allow Colvin to get all the at bats he needs. Plus we rid ourselves of salary now and still have talent on the field, coupled with a potential trade like previous statement they still have a decent team and we are positioned for possible free agents.

  • Buddy

    I’m afraid the Tigers aren’t trading Scherzer.

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