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.