Once again, Carlos Pena professes his love for the Rays and his desire to stay there long term. I never expected to see anyone express a strong desire to stay with the Rays long term, but wow have times changed:
Pena carries that mentality everywhere. So don't ask him if he is worried about his 0-for-18 start to Spring Training after missing the final 25 games of the 2009 season, or if he finds himself thinking about the fact that his three-year contract with the Rays expires after the season.
Sure, most players will say they don't think about upcoming free agency because it's the right thing to say. But Pena absolutely lives it.
He said he never really speaks to his agent, hardball negotiator Scott Boras, about his talks with the Rays, nor does he care to hear from Boras about it.
As of now, Pena said, "nothing has really happened" in terms of a possible deal, but he wouldn't mind coming to terms on an extension during the season, because he would love nothing more than to stay with Tampa Bay.
"I think everyone knows how much I like it here, how much I appreciate this place," said Pena, who's making $10.125 million this season. "So it's one of those things I know that I cannot control, because I'm not the one in the driver's seat there. But I know what I can control -- that's be prepared, do my exercises so I can stay healthy, make sure I'm present so I can enjoy my teammates.
Somewhere in his agent headquarters, Scott Boras is probably pulling his hair out. Boras is notorious for trying to get as much money for his guys as possible, but if Pena is serious about returning to the Rays long term, then there is almost zero chance that Pena will maximize his earning potential.
But then again, this could set up an interesting sub plot. Will Boras be able to use Pena's love of Tampa as a bargaining tool with other teams? Essentially, will he be able to say to teams, "Look, Carlos loves it in Tampa and if you want to sign him, then you're going to have to pay a premium for him services." Or something to that extent.
It seems as though that the only way for Pena to maximize his value on the open market next winter is to play the field, move on from Tampa, and let Boras work his magic. But then again, Pena's priorities seem to be all about comfort and if that's the case, then his mind is probably already made up about where he would like to play in 2011 and beyond. The question then becomes if the Rays can afford to keep him.