It came as a bit of a surprise when the Cubs moved passed the trade deadline without moving anyone outside of Kosuke Fukudome.
Or maybe it wasn’t a surprise at all. After all, with Jim Hendry at the helm as general manager, why would anyone expect the Chicago front office to make all the right moves at the deadline? Still, the fact that all of Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, Reed Johnson, and Marlon Byrd were still with the club when we moved into August was a bit of a shocker.
It likely means that Byrd is going to be back next season. Johnson could be back as an outfielder off the bench, but that’s unlikely. And Ramirez has repeatedly stated that he wants to remain a Cub until he retires.
That just leaves Pena. The reactions were mixed when the Cubs signed Pena to a one-year deal this past winter. Many were excited to get the left-handed power presence that the Cubs have lacked in recent years, while others just saw it as a low batting average to add to an already less-than-stellar lineup.
After a putrid April, Pena has come around to be one of the key contributors for a Cubs team that has actually played pretty well of late. He’s run his homer total up to 23, which is tied with Ramirez for the team lead. His .225 average is nothing to get excited about, but that’s what you get when you employ the services of Pena.
Aside from his obvious power numbers, and that sorry average, Pena actually brings other elements to the team that could lead to him being re-signed. He does have a solid on-base percentage, at .345, and has been as good as advertised in the field, saving several errors from the sometimes wild Starlin Castro.
Pena is also a fantastic presence in the clubhouse. You can never have too many of those guys, especially if he’s capable of impacting a game with one swing of the bat. On a team with headcases and arrogant personalities like Carlos Zambrano and Alfonso Soriano, a guy like Pena is even more important in the clubhouse.
The Cubs don’t have any real first base prospects coming up any time soon. And at this point, it’s probably safe to say that neither Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder are in the Cubs’ future. Why not retain a guy like Pena, who is going to get you 35-40 home runs if he actually realizes the season starts in April and not May? At the very least, he provides a stopgap at first and can provide that veteran presence for a team that looks like it’s heading into rebuild mode, if it’s not already.