John Romano column in this morning’s St. Pete Times argues that the Rays should re-sign Carlos Pena. He makes a good point that I agree with:
But, the truth is, Peña is exactly the type of player typically on Tampa Bay’s radar. If he had just finished up this wreck of a season in, let’s say, Oakland, there would be talk of how nicely he would fit in the Rays lineup because of his talents and relative lack of leverage.
In fact, that is precisely how the Rays acquired Pena in the first place. He had just finished a disappointing season in Boston and the Rays took a flyer on him by signing him to a minor-league contract.
But, this is not the same Carlos Pena that slipped out the back door at Fenway Park. That Carlos Pena signed a minor-league deal at no-risk to the Rays. This Carlos Pena won’t be so generous. If the Rays re-sign Pena, it is going to cost them at least one guaranteed season. And, as I wrote earlier, this is not a team with the financial flexibility to marry themselves to players that might not pan out.
More importantly, in an attempt to explain that Pena may have other suitors and that may push his price out of the Rays’ range, Romano inadvertently makes the best case NOT to re-sign Los.
Unfortunately, the Rays are no longer in the minority when it comes to maximizing value through defense and on-base percentage. Just Wednesday afternoon, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was sounding awfully smitten by Peña on XM Radio, and there have been rumors for months that Washington will come to the table with a multiyear deal.
We can argue about the value of Carlos’ defense in the comments if you like, but his OBP is the real killer here. Since we signed Pena in 2007, here is his OBP by season: .411, .377, .356, .325. During that same time, here are his total strikeouts by season: 142, 166, 163, 158. Sure, he ran into 46 pitches that left the yard in 2007 and another 39 in 2009, but that doesn’t justify an expensive out in the middle of the lineup who, during his time in Tampa Bay, struck out about 33% of the time.
Maddon’s style needs players that can get on base, put the ball in play, and drive balls into gaps consistently. Carlos Pena simply is not one of those guys.