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Tampa Bay Rays: The Risk and Reward of Carlos Pena

NEW YORK - JULY 18:  Carlos Pena #23 of the Tampa Bay Rays bats against the New York Yankees on July 18, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Zak SchmollAnalyst IMarch 4, 2012

The Tampa Bay Rays have brought back first baseman Carlos Pena after he spent one year away with the Chicago Cubs.

This could be an incredibly valuable signing for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Pena will not hit the ball for a high average. In fact, his career batting average is .239. However, hitting for a high average is not why he was brought to Tampa Bay. If the Tampa Bay Rays were looking for a high average, they would have stuck with Casey Kotchman. Kotchman was also very handy with the glove, so even though Pena is probably a slightly better fielder, the major difference between last year and this year at first base will be in terms of run production.

Pena can crush the ball. He has 258 career home runs and has driven in 730 career runs. During his four seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays, he hit 144 home runs and drove in 307 runs.

In a way, he is the ultimate risk-reward hitter. He might only get approximately one hit in every five at-bats, but that one hit is probably going to be something big and will probably drive in a run. To put this in perspective, Pena has 982 hits in his career; 479 of those hits were doubles, triples or home runs. In other words, almost 49 percent of his career hits went for extra bases. Again, when he hits the ball, it flies a long way.

This is why he could be a very valuable acquisition. Obviously, as evidenced by 2007, Pena is capable of great things. That season, he actually hit .282 with 46 home runs and 121 RBI. He probably won't be able to approach that again, but, again, the Tampa Bay Rays took a risk and are hoping for a lot of reward. While I don't see 2007 happening again, I do think that he will be productive and help the Tampa Bay Rays compete in the highly competitive American League East.

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