Any visions of hometown discounts that would allow us to retain some of our favorites that might have been dancing in the heads of us non-realist Rays fans have packed up and headed out. Carlos Pena has signed to play with the Chicago Cubs next year, a one-year deal that will pay him around $10 million. Yikes. Even those of us who subsist on Kool Aid and clapping to bring Tinkerbell back to life know there was no way the Rays would ever shell out that kind of coin. So all you can do is say congratulations (Seriously? $10 million? Wow!) and good luck. And when it comes to Carlos Pena, it's easy to mean it.
Pena joined the Rays prior to the 2007 season, coming off a season where he played all of 18 games for the Boston Red Sox, in the middle of a career in which he'd never played more than 142 games, hit more than 27 home runs or driven in more than 82 runs in a single season. At that point, the Rays were still the Devil Rays and had just finished yet another 90+ loss (actually 101 in '06), last place season. It was a good fit and the Rays and Pena got good together. 2007 was another bad record and last place finish but the Rays haven't finished below .500 since, having gone to the playoffs twice and winning the American League pennant in 2008. As for Pena, his worst season with the Rays (2010) was better than any he'd had prior to coming to Tampa Bay. He hit 46 home runs and drove in 121 runs in 2007, both career highs. During his time with the Rays he also collected a Silver Slugger award, a Gold Glove, made the American League all-star team and received votes for the league's most valuable player honor.
It's likely that his demeanor and presence off the diamond will be missed as much as what he produced on it. Always affable, upbeat and eager to participate in charitable events, Pena was another one of the really good guys we've been blessed to have as not only a player on one of our teams but as a member of our community.
So long 'Los. We sincerely appreciate everything you did for us and wish you nothing but the best.