Scouting the Free Agent Market: Carlos Pena


One area where the Yankees’ offense stands to improve over 2011 is at the DH spot. Last season their DHs hit a combined .251/.336/.450, which ranked sixth in the AL. Now, with at most half of a DH platoon already on the roster, the Yankees have an opportunity to move up the DH ranks and add to their offense. This morning Mike examined Johnny Damon’s case and determined that if money is truly a factor, Damon makes enough sense. In the post he mentioned another name, though, that makes plenty more sense from a performance standpoint.

The Yankees and Pena are no strangers. In early 2006, following his release by the Detroit Tigers, the Yankees signed him to a minor league contract. A year later he was tormenting them as a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He stuck with Tampa for for years, belting 20 home runs against the Yankees in that span. Even before that, the Yankees were part of the trade that sent Pena from Oakland to Detroit. That, as you’ll regrettably remember, was the trade that netted the Yankees Jeff Weaver. Here’s what Pena would bring the Yanks if the two parties were to reunite.


  • He absolutely mashes right-handed pitching. Since 2009 only 24 hitters have fared better than Pena’s 130 wRC+ against righties. In terms of pure power only six have hit righties better. That plays well for the heavy half of a platoon.
  • He has the experience. Not only did he spend four years in the AL East, producing a 134 wRC+ in that span, but he’s also been around in the postseason. In 80 postseason PA he’s hit .269/.388/.522 with four homers. It’s a tiny sample, but for all the emphasis on postseason failure and success, Pena is a great success.
  • He’s worked with Kevin Long in the past. In fact, they worked together during the 2006 season, which immediately preceded Pena’s breakout.
  • He’s a quality defender at first, and could step in should Mark Teixeira get hurt. That is, he provides some insurance.
  • It’s hard to understate how his righty bashing helps his case. It’s a pretty big point in his favor.


  • He probably won’t come cheap. After his 2010 season, in which he produced a 105 wRC+, he took a one-year deal with the Cubs in order to rebuild his value. He did that, igniting in the second half on his way to a 119 wRC+. The Cubs paid him $10 million, so it seems unlikely he’d sign for less than that — unless the market has completely bottomed out on him.
  • He’s not effective against lefties, producing just a .306 OBP since 2009 despite a 14.1 percent walk rate. Oddly, though, the three pitchers off whom he has homered the most often — Andy Pettitte, Jon Lester, and Bret Cecil — are all lefties.
  • His defensive value is negated by his lack of playing the field. It also means he’s essentially a DH only, limiting roster flexibility.

While it’s not common to see a player of Pena’s caliber take a pay cut, especially after he succeeded in having a rebound season, the market for Pena appears a bit thin. The only two teams connected to him so far are the Indians and the Rays, two teams that aren’t exactly rolling in cash. The Brewers could make sense, but they say they’re maxed out. Other than that, we’re down to non-contenders such as the Orioles and Pirates. The market, then, seems to favor the Yankees. Even near their payroll ceiling, they likely have more resources than all of the above teams. They won’t go out and bid big for him, but if they continue their patient streak, the Yanks could find Pena falling into their laps. He’d be a great fit for a platoon DH role in 2012.

Categories : Hot Stove League


  1. jsbrendog says:

    so, if they have $1-$2 mill for a dh….and they’re trying to get the payroll down by 2014….what’s $4 mill for pena for 1 yr? or even 2? he’s off the books by 2014…

    • jsbrendog says:

      i probably should’ve read that whole article..i glossed over the cons…but if $10 mil…well, johnny damon come on down?

      • Slugger27 says:

        i think its pretty clear $10M isn’t happening at this point.

        • Dave203 says:

          Exactly — he made 10 million last year, but he is basically assumed to need a platoon at this point and nobody is paying $10 million unless he is their everyday 1B.

          I think he can be had for 5-6, but not the 1-2 being thrown around.

          • Ted Nelson says:

            He’s the big half of a platoon, though, and overall without a platoon is still a league average starting 1B. He compares favorably with someone like a Cuddyer who signed a 3 year $31 million deal this off-season. He might end up being a victim of weak demand, but he can justify a close to $10 million per deal in my opinion.

  2. Cy Pettitte says:

    I don’t see it happening, I think if he takes another 1yr deal for a few million he would just go to the Rays or Indians. He’d get more playing time to help build/sustain his value.

  3. Nick says:

    burnett for mark reynolds?

  4. CJ says:

    Seth smith absolutely mashes rh pitching ops .850+, he can run steal a base play the of and back up Eli manning. He makes 2.5m and was traded to something less than wade, Warren. Yankees passed, not looking for a platoon split?

  5. Mike Axisa says:

    That’s some homer in the video.

  6. Granderslam says:

    I love the idea of Pena a lot, but if the price is too high, what about Betemit?

    • T.O. Chris says:

      Wilson seems like the most logical choice at this point. He can play DH with Jones and allow Rodriguez to DH by taking his spot at 3B regularly. He can also serve as a decent backup for Jeter and Cano as well.

      • Preston says:

        Betemit cannot play SS or 2B.

        • T.O. Chris says:

          He can play them just not well. He played 3rd, 1st, and 2nd last year, though the last time he logged innings at SS was in 2008. We have Nunez for SS anyway so I doubt he would see time there unless Nunez got hurt, and even then Pena might get the call to play short.

        • bankers hours says:

          Betimet stinks.

          • T.O. Chris says:

            He’s not great but he’s better than both Damon and Matsui at this point and he posted better numbers the past two seasons than Nunez did. for 1-2 million and the players available on the market he’s probably the best they can do.

  7. AJavierkei Pavagawnett says:

    It’s surprising that Pena is in this position at this point.

    Would love to have him, but like the post says, 1) how much of a pay cut from last year would he be willing to take, and 2) why would he want to be a part-time DH when he could play 1B most days for another team?

    Only way he ends up on the Yankees is if no one else goes after him seriously, and he’s willing to be a 70%-of-the-time DH.

    • Preston says:

      Nobody has gone after him seriously so far. Maybe we’ll get lucky. He’s certainly a better DH option than Damon.

  8. Bruce says:

    It may sound crazy but why not try out Manny Ramirez. He would play for the prorated league minimum and would probably love to stick it to Boston. He probably can still hit the cover off the ball, albeit not reaching the stands as often is he once did. Besides he can be cast away if he is trouble or cannot hit well enough.

  9. Joltin Joe says:

    He won’t come because he’s still mad at CC for breaking his hand and allowing Tex to tie him in 09 for the HR title.

    Michael Kay’d

  10. Reggie C. says:

    The big question is whether Carlos Pena accept a platoon Dh role/ back-up 1B position? Andruw Jones is on the squad and he’ll need at-bats at DH to keep some rhythm at the plate.

    I think Pena signs with a team that’ll guarantee the most at-bats. Who knows… though Pena would look great in pinstripes.

  11. Dave says:

    .228 BA? NO NO NO NO NO NO

  12. CJ says:

    It’s hilarious reading the Yankees only have 1 maybe 2 million for a player.

  13. Kevin G. says:

    Oddly, though, the three pitchers off whom he has homered the most often — Andy Pettitte, Jon Lester, and Bret Cecil — are all lefties.

    Girardi’s binder just exploded.

    • boogie down says:

      I’d guess that’s because they’re all intra-division (for the years he was in the AL East) starters. As starters, they’re almost always getting 2-3 AB’s from him; Obviously, the same can’t be said of relievers. Next, if Pena were to face one of those three (or any lefty starter, for that matter) at a critical juncture in the game, they’re more likely to be left in on account of their same-handedness. Multiple iterations of that additional at-bat would have added up over the 4 years he was in TB, due in no small part to the unbalanced schedule.

  14. Robert says:

    What about Burnett for Carlos lee? If needed he can play 1st or LF plus he has 19 million left on his deal and is a FA after this year.

    • Dave says:

      The Astros are trying to free up money for their move next year to the AL. I doubt they would want to take on the AJ money. If you took Wandy AND Lee for AJ then they might bite.

    • Dave203 says:

      Why would that deal make sense for Houston?

      • Dave says:

        Pure salary dump. Plus they have a kid that they like at 1st who is being blocked by Lee this year.

        • Dave203 says:

          It’s not a salary dump when they take AJ’s contract in return. There is no way the Yanks are paying for both bloated contracts. We don’t kick in $10 million and cover Lee’s entire salary.

  15. CJ says:

    The august waiver claim is the best hint of Carlos Pena possibilty. Funny how they would have paid him for July/august 2011 the $2 million they have to spend for all of 2012.

  16. theyankeewarrior says:

    Want. Sign. Make Home Run. Hit Ball Hard. Make DH Team With Andruw. Give Money. Give $8M. Sign Player. Win Game.

  17. Preston says:

    I would like to try to trade for Kendry Morales. He’s young, cheap and could end up being a huge acquisition. I know that his leg is a problem. But we only need him to DH. The Angels have a glut of 1B/DH types and desperately need bull-pen arms.

    • T.O. Chris says:

      What are you trying to trade away for him?

      • Preston says:

        Maybe two minor league arms, one of Warren/Phelps plus one of Kontos/Mitchell/Whelan. Considering he didn’t play at all last year and they don’t have a place to play him I think that would be enough.

        • T.O. Chris says:

          If I’m the Angels I just keep him instead of that. None of those 4 are going to make an impact and Morales can, even if he’s just a DH and part time first baseman he can make impact than those guys. I’d at least see if I could play him some to raise his value for the trade deadline.

          • Preston says:

            It’ll be hard to find AB’s for all of their DH types. Morales may have no value in a couple of months. They probably can’t get anything except salary relief for Abreu, and Trumbo’s low OBP probably means he wouldn’t be able to get an equitable value for him. Plus with all the money they have tied up they would probably like to keep the cost controlled guy. They are in win now mode and need bull-pen help. I think the trade matches up pretty well.

            • T.O. Chris says:

              I just don’t see anyway his trade value could go any lower than it is right now. He’s played 51 games in 2 years and only has one full season under his belt. I just don’t see where they gain by dumping him for next to nothing right now. I mean I guess if you’ve completely given up on him it makes some sense I guess, but then if they’ve completely given up on him I don’t see much reason to get excited about trading for him.

      • Luke says:

        How about Hughes for morales?

        • T.O. Chris says:

          That may be something they are interested in. They traded Chatwood so I don’t think they have a penciled in 5th starter, but I’m just not sure how I would feel about that one. On the one hand Phil has been a major disappointment for the totality of his young career, even his good 2010 season was really more like 88 good but not great innings and 88 really bad innings. But at the same time Morales is older and maybe just as unproven as Hughes. Plus since he hasn’t played in a year we have no idea what kind of shape he’s in or if he’d even be able to hit the ball with any authority.

          That’s a real thinker and one the Yankees would have to at least look at. I think they would probably turn it down, but I can’t give an answer on what I’d do.

  18. Tom Zig says:

    I would love to have Carlos Pena in pinstripes. I just don’t know how much money is in the budget nor do I know what he’s asking for.

    2011 Carlos Pena and how he would have ranked on the 2011 Yankees

    .357 total OBP (4th)
    .354 total wOBA (6th)

    .383 wOBA vs RHP (2nd, relative to that split)
    140 wRC+ vs RHP (2nd, relative to that split)
    .388 OBP vs RHP (1st, relative to that split)
    140 OPS+ vs RHP (3rd, relative to that split)

    • CJ says:

      Well yanks were willing to pay him $2 million for July and august last year after placing waiver claim. Now that’s all they have for 2012 dh. Yeah right!

    • Tom Zig says:

      Carlos Pena’s rate stats for the 2011 season are drastically brought down by the 120 ABs vs Lefties. Contrast that with Andruw Jones who only had 64 ABs vs Righties in 2011.

      It is a hell of a lot more difficult to avoid a RHP than it is to avoid a LHP. I really think Carlos Pena would thrive on the Yankees, especially in Yankee Stadium.

    • Guillermo says:

      Whole lot of stats-whatever way you slice it, Peña cannot hit. The dude strikes out 5 to 6 times/homerun. He is slow and clogs bases. We don’t need backup at 1B. Tex plays every day. I know it’s not the trendy thing to say on this site, but I’ll take a guy who at least gets a 160 hits a year over a guy who barely gets a 100 hits and stikes out 160 time a year. The Yankees have lost in the playoffs since 2001 (except for 2009) too often because they don’t string together enough hits. We need to add some guys off the bench who can hit not just walk and whiff.

      • Needed Pitching says:

        outs kill rallies, any kind of outs. Rallies are sustained by not making outs, something Pena avoids quite well vs. RHP.

        OBP and SLG have a higher correlation to scoring runs than AVG. Scoring more runs is better.

  19. CJ says:

    I’m still predicting prince fielder. “we saw the opportunity to add an exceptional player that we think will help us win world championships in the future”-Brian cashman on payroll the day of signing prince fielder

    • Dave says:

      If they were under 200 right now then I could see that, but I can’t see them adding another 20+ mill. It would put the payroll into the 230′s I think. Thats 100% the wrong direction, but hey…If the Yanks dont care then I dont! Only thing is…how much do they value getting under 189? Could they backload a deal to anticipate getting that payout in ’15, ’16 etc…?

      • CJ says:

        I watched Joel Sherman bob klapisch and jack curry talk about nothing on Yankees baseball daily while the trade and signing were well in motion. It’s all nonsense.

      • CJ says:

        If fielder is going to nationals I can see backing off, not the same with Texas.
        They have cliff lees 22 million sitting around

      • Needed Pitching says:

        I would think if they signed Fielder, getting under 189M would pretty much be a pipe dream. I guess it still could be done, but it would likely mean not resigning at least one of Cano/Granderson.

    • Needed Pitching says:

      it’s not just a money issue with Fielder though. He’s blocked at first base and ARod is likely to need more and more DH days going forward. He’s not a great fit long term position-wise.

  20. Monterowasdinero says:

    Pena may be waiting for Fielder so he’d have more leverage. I wouldn’t mind giving Kendry Morales a shot. Great stick.

  21. Billion$Bullpen says:

    Not releasing or making Giambi a bench piece and bringing Pena up was one of the major fails of our current GM. I know nobody agreed with me in 2006 and most likely nobody will now because Giambi hit a bunch of homers, but he was a joke at first and had a good way for not being mentally in games at times. Watching him attempt to play first was sickening and the fact he would never keep the other team honest with that overshift they did on him was just absurd. Pena was a solid glove with some pop and at that point would have breathed some life into our team.

  22. CJ says:

    Scouting the Free Agent Market: Prince Fielder
    Pros: everything
    Cons: he’s expensive
    He’s heavyset

  23. Geo says:

    Heyman’s saying Yanks and Matsui are talking. I’m happy to hear that.

    • Preston says:

      He doesn’t have a lot to offer at this point. He doesn’t hit righties that hard. He doesn’t hit for power anymore. He can’t run and can’t field. He’s old and injury prone. I loved Matsui while he was here. But I can’t imagine him helping the 2012 team.

      • Needed Pitching says:

        Agree. Dickerson in RF with Swish at DH vs. RHP might be a better option overall than Matsui overall at this point – improved defense and speed, .341 career wOBA vs. RHP (though markedly worse than that in SSS over last 2 years, Matsui .291 wOBA vs. RHP last year for context). I’m not sure Matsui is an upgrade overall over some of their in-house options at this point.
        Unless Matsui was willing to take a non-guaranteed contract to see if he has anything left in spring training, I’d say pass.

        • Guillermo says:

          I like the idea of giving Dickerson a shot to play more in RF against RHP. Also like the idea of Swish as DH those days. I am not too fond of the “half day off idea” using Jeter and Alex as DH. I think Jeter will be better resting his legs for a day or two, especially since he runs hard when he puts ball in play. Alex, likewise will be better if he rests once week-no need to DH. Need to give enough ABs to Jones to keep him sharp.

    • CJ says:

      what has Heyman offered the past 3 months. He gets credit for breaking Montero-Pineda swap but all he did was say officials tell me the other guy on Twitter is right “Montero traded for Pineda”

    • bankers hours says:

      I love Matsui but please he’s too far gone, too old, not matsui.

  24. Pineda, Piñata. Potato, Potahto (Formerly Jesse) says:

    Would love to have Pena has a righty DH masher. He could form a great 1-2 DH combo with Andruw Jones, although it would be nice to have the DH door open for Jeter and A-Rod.

  25. CMP says:

    How about trading Burnett and $8 million for Travis Hafner? Hafner is owned $13 million for 2012 with a $2.75 million buyout. It saves the Yankees about $8 million over 2 years and they get a lefty DH who mashes righties for 1 year.

    • T.O. Chris says:

      Why would the Indians do that? They already traded for Lowe and have Jimenez, Masterson, Carmona, and Tomlin. At best he’d replace Tomlin but then they would be picking up 2 mediocre pitchers with bad contracts in the same offseason. Doesn’t seem smart.

      • CMP says:

        Burnett is at least as good as Tomlin or Carmona. Out of the AL east, he may be better than both.

        Besides, I’m looking at this from a Yankees perspective. Screw the Indians.

        • Pineda, Piñata. Potato, Potahto (Formerly Jesse) says:

          “Besides, I’m looking at this from a Yankees perspective. Screw the Indians.”

          Which is precisely why you can file that trade proposal under the 99.9999999% of trade proposals that suck.

        • T.O. Chris says:

          Carmona and Tomlin are much younger than Burnett and the Indians are very committed to Fausto, they aren’t going to give up his rotation spot for Burnett. Tomlin they may but I doubt it when he’s in his mid 20′s and cheap. For a 5th starter he’s a fine option to go with the rest of that staff.

          The Indians have to be willing to actually do the trade. You can’t just put a gun to their head and say “take Burnett or else, screw you, do it!”. They actually have the right to just say no to any trade proposal, and from their perspective it makes no sense so that’s exactly what they would do.

    • Joltin Joe says:

      The Indians already have one useless back end starter in Derek Lowe. I doubt they’d want another one, espcially for two more years. Besides, is Hafner really going to help the Yanks more than a Jones/Vasquez platoon or something along those lines?

      • T.O. Chris says:

        What’s with the support for Jorge Vazquez? The guy is not going to be able to play at the major league level for more than a week. He strikes out over 30% of the time and walks less than 7% against AAA pitchers at age 29. He has giant holes in his swing and would be eaten alive by even mediocre major league pitching.

        • GardnergoesYardner says:

          I agree. Vasquez shouldn’t even be an option at this point. If a rookie was going to DH, it was gonna be Montero.

      • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa says:

        If we want to talk Indians can we discuss masterson’s total transformation after going to Cleveland?

      • Roy says:

        Kevin Long told the Trentonian that Vasquez’s 250 BA in 2011 translates to .200 BA in the majors. Lot of strikeouts there. Plus he is a righty.

    • CJ says:

      Pronk is a broken down juice head. I don’t remember him in any reports but IMO, of all players, he is the most obvious of users.

  26. shuan says:

    Jorge Vazquez & AJ with 14M for Garrett Jones

  27. Tomm says:

    He does not “mash” right handing pitching. A good right handed pitcher with a breaking ball puts Pena away most every time. He is a dead red fastball hitter who is weak against the curve. Put him against a good player in the playoffs and he will disappoint.

  28. Tomm says:

    More on this: what do you want in a lefty? A guy who can hit a good righty in the playoffs. Pena? Does he hit Josh Beckett? (.156 average for Pena), Jered Weaver? (.167 average for Pena), Clay Buckholz? (.133 average), Dan Haren? (.235 average). Mashed potatoes, I say.

  29. Tomm says:

    Buchholz, I mean.

  30. Tyler says:

    I’d be fine with having a roving DH (Jones vs LHP) and then just letting Dickerson and Nunez play while spelling Swish/Granderson/Arod/Jeter etc…until the trade deadline and re-evaluate who is available at that time. I don’t think it’s really a rush to sign somebody before the season (or even the beginning part of it)

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