Carlos Pena of the Chicago Cubs celebrates his eleventh inning RBI single against the New York Mets at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Carlos Peña batted .225 in 2011 and got paid $10 million by the Chicago Cubs. Crazy? Hardly. Peña, now a free agent, figures to earn at least that much in 2012. Which teams can use a guy like him?
Hey, don't laugh.
Carlos Peña earned $10 million last season.
And there aren't imaginary air quotes around earned, either.
According to FanGraphs, Peña was worth roughly $12 million last season, to a generic team.
This might surprise you, considering that Peña batted .225 and neither scored nor drove home 100 runs. Didn't actually come close on either account. And strikeouts do matter, a little; honestly, I don't know if FanGraphs' method fully accounts for their deleterious impact. But close enough for cookies, I suspect.
Coincidentally enough, Peña's been worth roughly $12 million per season over the last four seasons ... which gives us a pretty good idea of what he'll be worth over the next three or four seasons.
Yes: roughly $12 million. We may assume an age-related decline, but we may also assume salary inflation. Those things don't cancel each other out exactly, but I think it's fair to assume that Peña will be worth around $30 million over the next three seasons.
Which doesn't mean he's going to get that much. There's still a prejudice against low batting averages, and Peña's batted .211 over the last two seasons. Still, he got his $10 million last season from the Cubs after batting .196 for the Rays in 2010.
How much will Peña get in 2012? I think that depends largely on the length of the contract. Another one-year deal for $10 million wouldn't be out of line. Neither would a three-year deal for $24 million.
Where might Peña play in 2012? It's tough to say with a guy like him, because there are 30 first-base slots and 14 DH slots, which means 44 potential jobs.
However, my rough count has seven American League teams with a spot for Carlos Peña, and three National League teams. I get those numbers by looking at established regulars at first base and DH, and eliminating teams that can't justify spending $10 million on a decent first baseman.
The Red Sox would be a good fit if David Ortíz doesn't re-sign with the club. The Yankees could certainly use a left-handed bat in the DH slot, and Peña's power would play well in Yankee Stadium. The Blue Jays probably can't afford him, but some production would be nice. The Mariners actually have money to spend, though Mike Carp would be a reasonable, low-cost option at DH. The Rangers got almost nothing from their first basemen last season.
The Nationals are supposedly making a play to win soon, and Peña would help. The Cubs probably aren't going to try to contend in 2012, so Peña probably doesn't make sense for them. But maybe they're more ambitious than we think. And Peña would be a solid replacement for Prince Fielder in Milwaukee.
Or maybe I'm completely misreading the market, and he'll sign with the Indians for $4.5 million. Presumably, we'll know soon.