The Chicago Cubs have agreed to terms with free-agent first baseman Carlos Pena on a one-year deal worth $10 million, according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Pena, 32, has 230 career home runs, 144 of which have come since the start of the 2007 season.
Pena also plays stellar defense at first base, making this acquisition a smart one for Cubs' general manager Jim Hendry. Despite a rough (.196 batting average, strikeouts in roughly one-third of his at-bats) 2010 season, Pena is a solid left-handed power threat who can bat third for Chicago and only improves the lineup.
Because the contract runs just one year, the agreement will not interfere with the Cubs' long-term ambitions, which could include pursuing free agents-to-be Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder if either hits the market after 2011. In the meantime, it gives new manager Mike Quade some stability in a crucial lineup slot and defensive position at which he had no such security during his stint as interim manager in 2010.
Still, this solves relatively little for the Cubs. They are still a long way from serious contention outside the weak NL Central, and the gap cannot be made up with just an adjustment or two: The team will need to fundamentally transform itself over the next two seasons in order to return to the glory of 2008, when they were the NL's best team and should have won the pennant. Read on for 10 key steps on the road to redemption on Chicago's North Side.