On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Angels agreed to a minor-league deal with free agent first baseman Carlos Pena that includes an invitation to spring training with a chance to earn a roster spot.
The 35-year-old last season played in 85 games for the Houston Astros where he batted .208 with eight home runs and 25 RBI. Pena was released by the Astros in late July and picked by the Kansas City Royals where he played in just four games for the team going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Pena’s production has steadily been decreasing over the past four seasons as he averaging 21 home runs and 63 RBI — a far cry from his three consecutive seasons from 2007-09 where he averaged over 30 home runs and 100 RBI for the Tampa Bay Rays. In his last full season in the majors in 2012 with Tampa Bay, he struggled at the plate as he batted .196 with 19 home runs and 61 RBI to go along with a career-high 182 strikeouts.
So with his best days clearly behind him, what can the former All-Star bring to the table for the Halos?
If Pena were to indeed make the regular season roster out of spring training, he would likely be placed in a backup role to first baseman Albert Pujols by playing in fill-in starts on Pujols’ days off during the season. He can also share designated hitter duties with Raul Ibanez to keep him fresh throughout the grueling 162-game season.
Although Pena is an aging player in the twilight of his career, he can still be a source of power off the bench be it as a fill-in starter or a pinch hitter. And in addition to that it always helps to have another veteran hitter on the roster who can help provide guidance and tutelage to younger hitters such as Mike Trout, Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun.
Signing the 12-year veteran is a low-risk move that has some upside as Pena could prove to be a serviceable backup and fill-in starter in case Pujols or Ibanez were to suffer any injuries this upcoming season. Ultimately, the addition of Pena provides more depth to the Angels’ roster.