It’s a good time to be a first baseman in the city of Chicago.
Both sides of town needed to solidify the position, and both sides of town signed guys who can play the position. The White Sox signed Adam Dunn, who is an average fielder at best, and they also re-signed mainstay Paul Konerko. Konerko will no doubt get the lion’s share of time at first base.
The Cubs, on the other hand, signed free agent Carlos Pena late Tuesday night, in an effort to kill two birds with one stone. They got a first baseman, and they picked up the left-handed power hitter that eluded them for so long.
Pena is coming off a worse season than Aramis Ramirez, if that’s possible. He hit .196 and had a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .222. The low BABIP suggests bad luck. So basically him and Ramirez had nearly identical seasons. That, of course, means that they’ll both have fantastic rebound seasons….right???
The Cubs signed him to a one year, $10 million deal. At first, that seemed strange to me, but after taking a closer look, it might not be so strange after all.
Let’s say the Cubs surprise the world and contend for the division this upcoming season. More than likely, Carlos Pena will have something to do with it. He hit 28 homers last season. Far from a career high, but he should relish Wrigley’s small-ish dimensions, not to mention the wind blowing out. In this case, the signing is totally worth it, and Jim Hendry will have made a good investment.
Let’s say the Cubs, as expected, struggle, but Pena plays well. July 31st rolls around, and someone is in need of a lefty power hitter. Pena would most certainly be traded, and the Cubs could demand a high price for his services. Can we say, all together now, major league ready pitching?
Finally, let’s say the Cubs suck, Pena plays well, but no trade can be worked out at the deadline. Pena leaves as a free agent, and the Cubs pick up a draft pick in the process.
Maybe, just maybe, this deal can’t go wrong for the Cubs. Then again, there’s a distinct possibility that it could go horribly wrong.
Pena is a phenomenal fielder as well. He’s a Gold Glove winner, and he only made six errors at first in 142 games at the position last season. A good fielder is what they needed, with Ramirez and Starlin Castro on the left side of the infield. Both of those guys are known to uncork some wild throws from their positions, and someone who can dig balls out of the dirt is an incredible asset.
I think the jury is still out, and will be for some time. It may even come back a hung jury. I think, right now, the positives outweigh the negatives for the Cubs. On one hand, it’s a lot of money to pay for another potential lame duck hitter in the middle of the lineup. On the other hand, he can’t be much worse than last year at the plate, and he does bring good defense to the table.
Here’s what I want from Pena: .250 average, .375 OBP, 162 or fewer strikeouts, 35 or more homers, and 90 or more RBI. Give me that, and I’ll give him my stamp of approval (not that it means anything).