Cliff Lee isn't the only big free agent being courted by baseball teams this year as free agent first baseman Carlos Pena signed a one year contract to leave Tampa Bay and the Rays to go to Chicago to play for the Cubs in 2011. He makes his appearance on his third team, having played for Detroit from 2001 to 2006 and Tampa from 2007 through 2010. His breakthrough year came with the Rays in 2007, when Carlos Pena hit 46 home runs. But the strikeout problems and lack of plate discipline that characterized his tenure in Detroit as a member of the Tigers never really went away, and this past season he was below the Mendoza Line for the first time as a major leaguer.
Part of the problem for Carlos Pena was plantar fasciitis in his right foot, a painful condition that affects the bottom of the foot. As a left handed hitter, his right foot leads as he shifts his body toward the pitched ball. Experts expect the foot trouble to be cleared up by spring training, but debate is still alive and well as to how his hitting will fare. Wrigley Field tends to be friendly confines to batters, which could bode well for him, Carlos Pena chose to sign a one year contract with the Cubs for $10 million in hopes of having a rebound year and getting more money next offseason, as if this new contract isn't already enough to help him put with safety auto insurance and electric bills.
Cubs Look for 2011 Rebound
The Carlos Pena signing is another sign that the Cubs are looking to have a better year next year after finishing tied for fifth in their division in 2010. It did not help matters when longtime Manager Lou Piniella somewhat abruptly announced his retirement in the midst of the season; but this team was a lost cause for the year before that ever happened. Perhaps this new signing can help matters out for the team.
They certainly needed the help at first base, and every team can always use a big left handed bat. The question is whether Carlos Pena can ever develop plate discipline to go along with that big swing. After six seasons in Detroit the Tigers let him go because they felt Carlos Pena was still too strikeout prone. Now several years later it seems like the same thing happened with the AL East champion Rays. Of course, Carlos Pena can't blame Tampa's lack of interest in resigning him on his batting average. They seem to be letting go of all of their major free agents in a payroll cutting winter. Lack of fan interest has hurt the team's ability to spend money on payroll, in spite of its success on the field with two AL East titles in three years and a World Series appearance in 2008.
Future Outlook for Carlos Pena
2011 will be a big year for the free swinging lefty and newest member of the Chicago Cubs. He has to have the kind of year that can demonstrate that he is capable of being more patient, maybe looking at more pitches, perhaps hitting for contact sometimes instead of always swinging for the fences. But they say a leopard can't change its stripes, so it may be that the same is true for this slugger. He has a hot bat when he's on, and as a left handed hitter that's a valuable asset for the team. Carlos Pena is looking to have a breakout campaign in 2011 and help his new team rebound from a terrible season this past year. Hopefully he succeeds at both.