I was in Boston when the Tigers traded Jeff Weaver in 2002. In fact, Weaver was set to throw that day at the game I was attending at Fenway Park. At the time, it was Weaver for Carlos Pena, Franklyn German and a player to be named later. I hadn’t heard of German at the time nor had I heard of Jeremy Bonderman (who ended up being the PTBNL). I had heard of Carlos Pena though.
Earlier that year, Pena had opened the season for the A’s on a solid note. He hit seven homeruns in 87 at bats but his strikeouts were also pretty high (27). His May ended up being horrible though. He went four for 37 and struck out eleven times. By the end of the month, he was back in the minors.
In July, he was dealt to the Tigers and he had a solid second half. He hit twelve homeruns and finished with a .253/.321/.462 line for the Tigers. He was touted as being a gold glove fielder at first base and most expected that Pena would be the Tigers’ first baseman of the future.
In 2003 and 2004, Pena was the starter at first base. He showed some plate discipline in 2004 (70 walks) but his strikeouts continued to rise as well (146 in 2004). And the gold glove and smooth hands never really materialized. In all four seasons with the Tigers, he finished with a negative fielding runs above average. He did show some promise by hitting a team high 27 homeruns in 2004 but he was criticized for hitting .241.
2005 looked a lot like 2002 for Pena, except for the solid April. Pena spent more time below the .200 mark then he did above it and hit only three homeruns (two of those were in one game). By the end of May, he was playing for Toledo and he lost his starting first base job to the emerging Chris Shelton.
Pena found his swing in the minors and was called back up to play for the Tigers on August 19. He proceeded to six homeruns and had 12 RBIs in his next five games, four of which the Tigers won. He hit nine more homeruns the rest of the season and brought his batting average “up” to .235. His late season flurry was an encouraging sign and the only thing stopping him from reclaiming the starting job was an outstanding season by Chris Shelton.
In 2006, Pena had a horrible spring. He went eight for 50 with only one homerun and four RBIs and he was cut this morning. While I’m not completely surprised, I think the Tigers may have given up on him a season too soon. While he is 27, I would have liked to have seen him get one more season with the team and I think he’ll find time somewhere else. And I know there were money considerations, but I thought Pena had a better chance of having a solid season then Dmitri Young does.
Now we get to see where he ends up. The Yankees could use some help at first base. The Red Sox won’t be in the market because they just picked up Hee Sop Choi. The Reds could be an option and you could also possibly see him go back to Oakland.