LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. (AP) - Scott Boras called Carlos Pena’s $10 million, one-year deal with the Chicago Cubs “a pillow contract.”
“There’s a lot of comforts,” the agent said.
As in a cushioned, feathery landing spot from a down season.
Pena was lured to the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field on a short-term deal, hoping to put up big numbers, be eligible for free agency again next fall and earn the type of longterm multiyear agreement Boras is famous for.
“I don’t worry about that,” Cubs manager Jim Hendry said at a news conference Wednesday. “We’re never had to worry about keeping players that we wanted to keep.”
Hendry referred to Ryan Howard, who has a $125 million, five-year contract with Philadelphia that starts in 2012; Mark Teixeira, entering the third season of a $180 million, eight-year deal with the New York Yankees; and Adrian Gonzalez, who presumably will be rewarded with nine-figure extension for accepting a trade from San Diego to Boston last weekend.
“It’s not a gamble. It’s a real good fit,” Hendry said. “We haven’t had a lot of left-handed power. … The Howards, the Teixeiras, the Adrian Gonzalezes, those people that put up power numbers at that position either stay where they’re at, tied up, or sign huge lucrative longterm deals.”
Pena spent the last four seasons with Tampa Bay. Slowed by plantar fasciitis, irritation on the bottom of his right foot that landed him on the disabled list in August, the 32-year-old hit a career-low .196 this season with 28 homers and 84 RBIs. That was down from a .227 average with 39 homers and 100 RBIs the previous year, when he was selected for the AL All-Star team.
His first season with Tampa Bay was his best, when he batted .282 with 46 homers and 121 RBIs in 2007. The following season, he helped the Rays reach the World Series for the first time.
“I’m extremely confident. I don’t tend to look back on my failures and dwell upon them. I just feel that I’ve had a lot of adversity throughout my career and a lot of difficulties,” Pena said. “I think that all of those difficulties have made me stronger and a better player and a better person and a better man. So instead of dwelling upon that, I kind of embrace the fact that it was a difficult year and I should be a little bit more polished now.”
Pena said he turned down multiyear offers in favor of Chicago.
“I love the city. My family loves the city. I think we have a pretty good chance at winning,” he said. “We have a park; the history, what can I say? It’s truly one of those teams that when you’re a kid, you kind of dream about playing for. Like I said earlier, when I was 10 years old, I used to watch George Bell, Ryne Sandberg, (Shawon) Dunston, Andre Dawson. It was a regular thing at home.”
Tampa Bay won the AL East this year, then lost to Texas in a five-game, first-round series. The Rays appear to be cutting back on payroll. In addition to Pena’s departure, setup man Joaquin Benoit agreed to a $16.5 million, three-year contract with Detroit, and Gold Glove outfielder Carl Crawford reached a preliminary agreement with Boston on a $142 million, seven-year deal. Closer Rafael Soriano also appears set to sign elsewhere.
“The Rays did not express the intense interest that I was expecting, and I obviously know that they have to be truly creative in their organization,” Pena said.
He joins a Cubs team coming off a 75-87 record and fifth-place finish in the NL Central despite a $146 million opening-day payroll. Chicago was just tied for ninth in the NL with 149 home runs, with only Aramis Ramirez (25), Alfonso Soriano (24) and Tyler Colvin (20) reaching the 20-mark. The Cubs traded first baseman Derrek Lee to Atlanta late last season.
“It wasn’t any secret from the end of the season on that one of our top and most important priorities was to fill our void at first base,” Hendry said. “We were looking, certainly, to add someone from the left side, that not only was a quality offensive player with some power but also a good defender and a high character young man. We have certainly landed that. We have filled all of the essentials that we were looking for with Carlos.”
NOTES: Greg Maddux, an assistant to Hendry, was part of the Cubs’ team on the transaction. Boras was Maddux’s longtime agent. “His role with us has continued to grow,” Hendry said. Said Boras: “Greg has so many abilities and so many aptitudes, so to see him walk in the room and sit across from you, it’s really a feeling of great reward.”
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