According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, the Rays have re-signed the best first baseman in fanchise history, welcoming back silver slugger Carlos Pena. The Rays and agent Scott Boras agreed to terms today to bring the former gold glove and homerun leader back to St. Petersburgh.
It took a perfect storm to get Carlos Pena back in a Rays uniform, but the logjam of free agent first baseman (including Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder) left the opportunity wide open. The Rays had ample opportunity to trade one of their many starting pitchers for a long-term first baseman this offseason, and many of us had our fingers crossed for prospects, but few expected Pena to fall to Tampa Bay. Luckily, the Rays' patience in the trade market has paid off in the return of the power hitting lefty. Pena, 33 years old, posted a .225/.357/.462 line with 28 home runs in 606 plate appearances for the Cubs in 2011.
Carlos Pena is exactly the kind of player the Rays value. His defense is stellar, he gets on base like a champ (111 hits and 101 walks in 2011), and as an added bonus, he can hit for power. A longtime fan favorite in Tampa Bay, "The Los" should bring plenty of nostalgia for fans and a veteran club house presence back to the team. Heyman also reports the Pena deal is for 1 year, $7.25 mil. His old number, 23, is still available.
The Dominican native grew up in Massachusetts and was the tenth overall pick by the Texas Rangers in 1998. He first came to Tampa Bay as a free agent minor leaguer after a 2006 campaign playing for the Yankees and the Red Sox farm systems. When Greg Norton injured his knee on the final day of spring training in 2007, the Rays re-signed him to fill the major league position. He went on to have the best season of his career, hitting a .282 batting average, 46 home runs and 121 RBIs. He signed an extension afterward for $24 mil that kept him in Tampa Bay for three more years.
Pena averaged 36 home runs and a .238/.368/.516 line in his four seasons at Tampa Bay. After reaching free agency in 2011, Scott Boras landed his slugging first baseman an "Adrian Beltre" deal for one year and $10 mil to play for the Cubs, but Chicago had no need for Pena to return in 2012 with Bryan LaHair and Anthony Rizzo waiting in the wings.