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

By David Hill

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.