Jim Hendry was desperate for a first baseman in the winter of 2010, which is why he seemingly overpaid to sign Carlos Pena to a 1-year, $10 million deal.
Although Pena’s individual results in 2011 were not disastrous, it did little to keep Mike Quade from running the team into the wood chipper.
Flash forward to Friday where the Rangers made a similar desperate move by inking Lance Berkman to a 1-year, $10 million deal.
The Rangers have suffered Texas-sized heartbreak this winter. They’ve lost Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Michael Young while struggling to keep up with those pesky Angels.
So it’s reasonable to wonder if that’s why the Rangers are suddenly in favor of offering up 10-large to an injury-riddled DH who needed to be coaxed out of retiring?
For certain it puts a new shine on Pena’s old deal with Chicago. His offensive numbers in 2011 were clearly not worthy of $10M alone, but Pena did provide the Cubs with Gold Glove defense and much needed clubhouse leadership during a trying season.
It’s hard to imagine Berkman, four years older than Pena, can be of the same value for the same price as Pena was to the Cubs.
Granted the Rangers are in much better shape than those 2011 Cubs were, but it’s safe to say Berkman’s far from a Gold Glover and fair to assume he’s not going to be the same hitter he was just two years ago during his All Star season in St. Louis, which many seem to forget…was two years ago!
If the Rangers fall short of expectations next season, which presumably is a division title, no one will point to the Berkman signing as the team’s shortcoming. Instead, it will be the many moves that led to Berkman’s signing, just as it was with Hendry when he signed an over-priced first baseman to the Cubs.
2011: 33 years old, 1-year, $10 million
153-games, .225/.357/.462 – OPS+123
28 HR, 80 RBI…101 walks set franchise record for 1B
Gold Glove defense, clubhouse leader
Magical season of 2011 including postseason:
177-games .295/.408/.533, 33 HR, 105 RBI
*Then 2012 season…
32-games, 81 at-bats, 2 HR, 7 RBI
Plagued by left calf and a a torn meniscus in right knee
Is he worth $10 million?
Remember the number 700. It’s likely the minimum number of runs scored the Cubs need to reach to make the postseason.
In 2011 Chicago managed 654 runs scored, good for eighth place in the 16 team NL, but only fourth best in their own division.
The world champion Cardinals, meanwhile, led the NL with 762 runs scored–108 more runs than Chicago.
Playoff contenders Arizona (No.4), Milwaukee (No.5) & Philadelphia (No.7) all finished in the top 10 spots.
Although the Cubs did as well, there’s a sizable gap in this department compared to the Phillies who finished one spot higher.
Trade rumors for the Cubs have been relatively quite since early last week.
Not even the Cubs Convention stirred the pot, with the excessive fanfare coming and going with barely a peep about possible trades including Matt Garza, Alfonso Soriano or others. But that doesn’t mean I’m without suspicions.
Change didn’t go down the way I thought it would for Chicago at the Winter Meetings. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen eventually.
It could begin as early as this week with Pujols no longer a distraction and Epstein and Hoyer having spent three solid days in Dallas spinning their wheels on potential deals.
The lone trade by Chicago last week, Tyler Colvin for infielder Ian Stewart, appears to have put to rest the Cubs’ opening at third base. Now the focus remains on solidifying the opening at first base beginning with Prince Fielder.
While the Cubs believe they can sign Fielder with a ‘creative’ contract, I suspect his asking price will remain too high for serious consideration.
Not to mention, with plenty of suitors available, it only takes one team to go all ‘Angels’ on us and offer Fielder his desired seven-years, mega-dollars and the moon.
If that’s the case, however, the Cubs are still in a strong position to land another quality first baseman starting in-house with Carlos Pena–who I’m on the record as saying I’d love to see back with Chicago next season.
Why not bring Carlos Pena back to the North Side for the 2012 season?
He’s not the long-term answer, of course, but Pena, 33, has expressed a desire to return, and the Cubs hardly have an internal option to replace him.
It’s clear Theo & Company are building towards the future, but also strongly emphasize the importance of keeping the Cubs somewhat respectable for the upcoming season. That’s where Pena presents value on several fronts.
In the ‘New Cubs Way,’ Team Theo Epstein is focusing on ‘winning players,’ guys who work pitch counts and solid defenders. Pena exemplifies all three.
A few Cubs notes heading into the season’s final series this week in San Diego.
-Chicago has three players with 25 or more HR this year including Carlos Pena (28), Aramis Ramirez (25) & Alfonso Soriano (25).
Milwaukee is the only other club in the NL to match the same feat with Prince Fielder (35), Ryan Braun (33) & Corey Hart (25).
The last time the Cubs reached this same mark was 2004 when four players hit 25 or more HR: Moises Alou (39), Aramis (36), Sammy Sosa (35) & Derrek Lee (32).
Carlos Pena is showing no signs of slowing down during the Cubs’ final 12 regular season games.
In fact, since August 3rd he’s hitting .278 with 13 doubles, 2 triples, 8 HR and 26 RBI.
On Thursday Pena crushed a monstrous 461-foot HR off Homer Bailey in the first and later drew a walk to finish his evening 1-for-4 with 2 RBI.
Ten hits over his last seven games, including the last four, has helped raise his batting average to .233, its highest since hitting .237 in early May.
His OBP is more than 100-points higher (.357) than his average thanks to his 90 walks, 16 coming over his last 13 games, which is by far the best mark on the Cubs and third best overall in the NL.
Despite the fact Pena got off to a slow start offensively, going homerless over his first 25 games, he’s put together another strong season since his first long ball on May 3 in L.A. From that game on Pena’s hitting .246 with 28 HR and 73 RBI. Not too shabby.
Pena’s offensive numbers, in addition to his leadership and Gold Glove fielding, should give him an opportunity to return to the Cubs next season.
He may not be the popular choice this offseason, but he’s certainly not the worst option at first base, either.
With eight weeks to go the race for the NL Central flag is now a two horse chase between Milwaukee and St. Louis.
The Brewers and Cardinals have separated themselves from the pack due in large part to the Cubs’ seven-game winning streak vs. divisional opponents.
With Chicago’s four game sweep at Pittsburgh, the Pirates have fallen flat losing nine straight while dropping 9.0 games back of Milwaukee.
The Cubs’ spoiler streak continued Saturday having won the first two of three vs. Cincinnati, all but eliminating the defending champ’s run at a repeat. The Reds have lost three straight and trail the Brewers by 9.5 games.
Chicago has six game left against both front runners. Who knew the division ran through Chicago?
For the third time this week Carlos Pena drew a bases loaded walk. Not exactly what you’re looking for in a run producer, but getting the runner home should stand for something.
For all that’s made about Pena’s .224 average, his on-base percentage is 120 points higher than his batting average.
Pena has drawn a walk in nine of his last 10 games, and 14 of his last 18 contests.
He also leads the club in HR (21) and walks (67)–good for third best in the NL.
Maybe keeping Pena at the trade deadline wasn’t so bad after all?
Pillow Fight of the Year
-Houston is the only team in baseball with a worse record than the Cubs.
-The Astros are coming off its first series win since mid-June–taking
2 of 3 at home against Washington.
-Houston swept Chicago earlier this season at Wrigley.
-The Stros’ hit .336 and drove in 22 runs during the series sweep.
-Carlos Zambrano is (15-8) all-time vs. Houston. He throws Friday.
-The Astros have won 9 of of its last 11 games at Wrigley Field.
-The Cubs have yet to win three in a row all season.
-Friday marks the 100th game of the season for Chicago.
-Alfonso Soriano’s contract pays $18MM a year through 2014 and makes him virtually immovable. Talking to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Soriano wasn’t even aware he has a no-trade clause. But he did say he’d waive it to go to a contender.
Former Cub, Aaron Heilman, signed by Philadelphia.
Carlos Pena signs autographs for fans at a Pepsi MAX meet and greet on Tuesday July 19 at Jewel Osco on the 5300 block of N. Broadway.
He was appearing on behalf of the newly launched “Field of Dreams” program, where fans can win the chance to take on a fan-selected dream team of MLB legends. –Photo courtesy Pepsi Max
Len Kasper mentioned something very interesting during Monday’s broadcast, a 7-3 win for the Cubs vs. Colorado paced by Carlos Pena’s two home runs.
Which pitcher has Pena hit the most home runs against? The answer: Andy Pettitte, with six of his 246 career HR coming against the Yankee great.
I dug deeper and discovered Pena has quite a track record against some of the league’s top hurlers.