Signing Pena a low-risk, high reward move by the Cubs

May 14, 2010 - St. Petersburg, FLORIDA, UNITED STATES - epa02157685 Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena reacts after striking out against the Seattle Mariners during the sixth inning of a Major League Baseball game in St. Petersburg, Florida, USA, 14 May 2010.

Midway through next season, people may look back at the deal the Cubs just gave Carlos Pena and consider it a huge bargain.

Chicago inked the former Rays’ first baseman to a one-year, $10 million contract on Wednesday and while the dollar amount is a little high, the Cubs did very well no matter how he plays next season.

Pena batted just .196 in 2010 and struck out 158 times. But he slugged 28 home runs and walked 87 times, so his numbers weren’t all bad. He was also reportedly dealing with plantar fasciitis, which could be one of the reasons he struggled at the dish.

The key to this deal is that it’s only for one year. Pena was hoping to sign a multi-year contract but instead inked a one-year deal so that he can build up his value before next winter. He knew his 2010 numbers wouldn’t allow him to cash in this offseason, so signing a one-year deal made sense for him given his current situation.

For the Cubs, they get a player who will be trying to earn a multi-year deal next winter. In general, players in contract years typically perform better because they knew there are no guarantees (contract wise) behind that season. If Pena rebounds to his ’07-09 production when he averaged .252 with 39 home runs and 101 RBI per year (along with 95 walks), then the Cubs could sign him to an extension. If he flops or never finds his form, so what? They’ll be rid of him in a year and can move on.

These are the types of moves that GM Jim Hendry needs to make more. Instead of just throwing millions of dollars and long-term contracts at free agents (Alfonso Soriano anyone?), the Cubs would be better served to build through their farm system and plug holes with low-risk deals like this one for Pena.

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