Multiple online reports late last night -- and thanks to BCBer rezze for making this FanPost on the topic while most of the rest of us were sleeping -- stated that the Cubs would be signing free agent first baseman Carlos Pena to a one-year deal for $10 million.
The most astonishing thing about this signing are the words "one-year" in the above paragraph. When is the last time you can remember Jim Hendry signing anyone, much less a starting player or significant pitcher, to less than a two-year, backloaded contract with a no-trade clause?
We don't yet know if the deal will include a NTC, but given that it's for only one year, it likely doesn't matter that much. If Pena doesn't play well in 2011, the deal's over and the Cubs let him walk. If he does play well, talk of an extension will begin and the Cubs would likely at the very least offer him arbitration to try to keep him for a second year.
Pena had a pretty bad year last year, hitting .196/.325/.407, although with 28 home runs and 87 walks. One thing I did not know that was reported yesterday was that he was suffering from plantar fasciitis most of 2010. If you don't know what that is, it's a very painful foot condition that seems more common among NBA players. But if your feet are hurting, I can understand that affecting your entire lower body and thus, your hitting. It was also reported yesterday that Pena had recovered from this. If this is true, he could very possibly rebound to his 2007-09 level; over those three seasons he averaged .252/.382/.553 (.935 OPS) with 39 HR and 101 RBI per year along with 95 walks. Those figures would have led the Cubs in most of those categories in each of those years, particularly the walks.
The money seems a bit much, but otherwise, this is a fairly low-risk deal. I suppose this now pretty much cancels the rumored deal with the Texas Rangers that (according to one rumor I read) would have brought 1B Chris Davis and reliever Darren O'Day for Robinson Chirinos and Rafael Dolis, although I suppose the deal could still be made and Davis sent to Iowa for a year.
There are Cubs connections all over Pena's transaction log. He was traded to the Athetics by his original organization, the Rangers, because he was blocked at the time by... Rafael Palmeiro. Among the players the Rangers got in this deal were Gerald Laird and Ryan Ludwick. Later, the A's sent him to the Tigers in a three-way trade that included the Yankees; included in that multiplayer deal was Ted Lilly. Later the Tigers released him -- and so did the Yankees, before the Red Sox signed him. After one mediocre year in Boston, he left via free agency and signed with the Rays.
And he'll need to change his Tampa Bay uniform number with the Cubs. He wore No. 23.
We'll await the official announcement of this deal later today and hopefully, some more moves by the Cubs, who still seek some relief help and maybe (Brandon Webb?) a starting pitcher. Another rumor late last night said that once the Cubs did sign a first baseman, they would begin agressively shopping Kosuke Fukudome. We'll see. Please vote in the poll on the right sidebar to express your opinion on this signing.