Aug 28, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Carlos Pena (23) reacts to missing a pitch during the ninth inning of the game against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark. The Rangers beat the Rays 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-US PRESSWIRE

Was Carlos Pena The Worst Free Agent Signing In Rays History?

The Tampa Bay Rays front office gets a lot of credit, and deservedly so, for their moves in free agency. Andrew Friedman and the front office have typically hit on a lot more players than they have missed on, especially amongst players considered minor moves. Just this year, players like Jeff Keppinger and Fernando Rodney, each of whom were given rather inexpensive deals, have provided a major boost to the team.

However, there have been a few misses throughout the years, including this year. Of the Rays $65Million payroll, Carlos Pena takes up $7.25Million, or just over 11% of the Rays’ total salaries. In fact, Pena is the second highest paid player on the team, behind James Shields. So, what has Pena provided for this expenditure? Just a .191 batting average, a strikeout in 30.4% of his plate appearances, and average defense at first base. His WAR for the year stands at 0.1, marking him as a decidedly replaceable player.

As bad as Pena has been this year, can he be considered their worst free agent signing? He is only signed through this year, and likely will be let go after the season. Manny Ramirez was another one year signing, receiving $2.02Million. For that money, he produced exactly one hit in 17 at bats, before abruptly retiring after failing his second PED test. Pat Burrell received $16Million over two years, and had a WAR of -1.3, batting .218 with only 16 home runs over his season and a month with the Rays. To make it even worse, Burrell signed with the San Francisco Giants, rediscovered his swing, and went on to win a World Series later in 2010.

While the Carlos Pena signing was a bad signing in retrospect, it could have been worse. He could have disappeared after one hit, or been cut and gone on to be a key contributor to another team’s playoff push. Pena has certainly not lived up to his contract this season, and may be on his way to becoming loathed by the fanbase, but he is no Pat Burrell.

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  • Chris Rhodes

    YES, along with last years Manny Ramirez, this years Matsui, the trade for Lueke, along with the trade for Ben Fransico (athough his 3 hits are nice could’ve got the same from alot young talent Rays will now miss looks from inside the organization).
    All these players and the Rays misdirected mind set have missed looks at potential talent within the organization that shows why they have struggled to develop hitters in the field (with the exception of Jennings). Joyce was traded for like Fuld, Scott signed etc.
    TIME TO LOOK within!!!!
    We missed out on a real look at Josh Hamiliton for Upton alot he could played anywhere in the field next to Carl Crawford and Upton. Missed out on Leslie Anderson if they continue this CRAZIEST!!!! SCREW PENA… SCREW Ben Fransico and give some dignity back to the fielders who wanna hit within the organization!!! Trust me the hitting coaches in AAA know as much, actually likely more than Shelton in Tampa!
    GET Leslie Anderson to Tampa and stop putting PENA in late inning situations to hit with his whooping .180 Batting average!!!
    THANKS for finally a writer having the guts to call out the RAYS on they’re chaos of looking outside the organization and discouraging the 1st baseman and true hitters within who deserve a LOOK!
    Great Story David Hill!!!

  • the dude, man.

    Agreed. Pena is a bust. But I still love him for what he has done in years past. It is upper management that should have released him, after the month of july this year.
    Its not his fault, he just doesnt have it anymore.. age.

    • Robbie_Knopf

      The Rays kept hoping he’d get himself together… but it just never happened. Rays fans still love Pena and it’s unfortunate that he’s playing like this.

    • Dave Hill

      It’s always sad to watch someone age badly in sports, especially for a team with a fanbase that still holds him as a beloved figure. I’m hoping Pena realizes that he’s just about reached the end, announces his retirement for the end of the season, and the team and fanbase can give him the sendoff he really deserves in Tampa.

  • Chris Rhodes

    Great article! Might even wanna consider they ways contribution is looking to the Rays this Sept 2012 with only Chris Archer which we already knew how good he was prior…. An article about “Is this the Rays Worst September 40 man roster since Maddon took over?” Haven’t seen much of players who really are going contribute in the future with exception of one…. Chris Archer!
    I’ll say the wastes…
    Lueke, Matt Bush in regards to the 40 man who haven’t done anything or couldn’t for obvious reasons; and could name at least 5 total that don’t look like long term future on the 40 man. Kinda speaks alot when your look at the roster why they can’t score runs!!!