Chicago Cubs

Cubs, Boras and the art of the Pena deal

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Cubs, Boras and the art of the Pena deal

Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2010
Posted 9:13 AM Updated 8:11 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Ideally the Cubs wanted a left-handed first baseman to hit for power and improve their overall defense. They needed someone who would make a short-term commitment and be flexible enough to fit within their budget.

From the start, Carlos Pena matched that description. And during a series of meetings this week at the Swan and Dolphin resort, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry and agent Scott Boras reached an agreement in which neither side is exposed to too much risk.

They finalized a one-year deal worth 10 million in a negotiation that stretched from late Tuesday night into early Wednesday morning. Pena received multi-year offers elsewhere, and said he heard interest from the Nationals, Braves, Mariners, Orioles and Blue Jays.

Pena, who studied engineering at Northeastern University, analyzed the chance to become a free agent all over again after the final out of the 2011 World Series.

"This was the perfect fit for me," Pena said Wednesday at a news conference. "I also like the fact that this is a platform year for me (to) come in, be part of a great organization (and) have the opportunity to just go out there and play my game.

"Who knows? After a great season, then the future will look even brighter."

The contract was structured so that the money is spread over 13 months and 5 million will come in January 2012 to give the Cubs some financial flexibility. Pena received multi-year offers elsewhere, and said he heard interest from the Nationals, Braves, Mariners, Orioles and Blue Jays.

The Cubs are betting that Pena's offensive numbers last season in Tampa Bay were an aberration and not - at the age of 32 - the beginning of a sharp decline.

Pena hit .196 with a .325 on-base percentage, though his 28 homers and 84 RBI would have led the Cubs in both categories. Pena knows Rudy Jaramillo well from their days together in the Rangers organization, and they hope the hitting coach can help fix his swing.

"When you look at collectively over a four-year window - (the) power numbers, the RBIs, the walks and the defense - it's a package that's still appealing," Hendry said.

Pena has a reputation as a good defender - he won a Gold Glove in 2008 - and that should help a Cubs team that finished last in the National League in fielding percentage. Pena averaged 39 homers and 108 RBI per season between 2007 and 2009, but he entered free agency off a down year.

Boras negotiated Jayson Werth's seven-year, 126 million score, which had heads spinning at the winter meetings. But the powerful agent has also shown that he's willing to get a client a one-year deal to restore market value and position himself for the next big contract.

Adrian Beltre became the premise to this deal. Last offseason Beltre turned down a long-term offer from the A's to play one year with the Red Sox for 10 million. Beltre hit .321 with 28 homers and 102 RBI and established himself as one of this winter's most coveted free agents.

"(This) really had all the flavor of what we call a 'pillow contract'," Boras said. "There's a lot of comforts. It's a one-year situation. It's a dynamic that you can't really expect the marketplace to address - the values of Carlos' ultimate abilities (and) the issues of what happens to major-league players during every career. That is, they have seasons where they have maladies that arise in the short term."

That is how Boras talks, and reporters surrounded him for nearly an hour after the Pena announcement to ask questions about other players he represents. It is a long way of saying it will either work out or it won't.

They'll give a year to find out. Pena - who said he's 100 percent healthy and called the plantar fasciitis that limited him last season a "non-issue" - feels his fortunes are about to turn.

"I don't tend to look back on my failures and dwell upon them," Pena said. "All of those difficulties have made me stronger and a better player (and) a better man."

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs and Sox gear up for the decisive Game 4 in the Crosstown Cup

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs and Sox gear up for the decisive Game 4 in the Crosstown Cup

Sports Talk Live is on location at Guaranteed Rate Field to preview the decisive Game 4 of the Crosstown Cup. 

Kap is joined by David Haugh (Chicago Tribune), Sahadev Sharma (The Athletic), David DeJesus and Scott Podsednik. 

Plus new Cubs outfielder Jon Jay talks about his first season with the Northsiders .

Listen here. 

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

Even as they find their offensive groove, Cubs know there's more left in the tank

221.

That's how many pitches the Cubs saw during Wednesday night's 8-3 win over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

11.

That's the amount of runners the Cubs left on base Wednesday.

To Joe Maddon, those numbers don't quite add up.

The Cubs had 20 baserunners on 10 hits, eight walks and a pair of errors committed by Sox fielders. Yet they only plated eight, going 4-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Over the last two games, the Cubs have seen 412 pitches and scored 15 runs, but they've also left 24 guys on base and and gone just 9-for-33 with runners in scoring position.

"The proverbial grinding of the at-bats has been there," Maddon said after Wednesday's game. "[221 pitches], you'd think we'd score — I'm not talking about being greedy — we need to capitalize more.

"Eleven runners left on base. Again, I'm not complaining. Just the fact that we have to be more efficient as we move further along. Keep working those at-bats and I think if we do, at some point, it's gotta catch up to us in a positive way where it comes back to us and the ball's gotta fall in better moments, too."

The Cubs have gotten out to a 10-2 start to the season's second half, averaging six runs a game during that stretch and forcing the opposition to throw 154.5 pitches per game.

The Cubs have rapped out 124 hits in those 12 games as opposing pitchers have only recorded four quality starts.

And for all the issues with runners in scoring position in the first half, Anthony Rizzo and Co. are hitting .293 (37-for-126) with guys in scoring position since the All-Star Break. (Even with that, they're still only 27th in baseball with a .238 average with RISP, showing just how much the team underperformend in that area in the first half.)

The Cubs are starting to look more and more like the 2016 version of themselves as a host of other players — led by Willson Contreras, Addison Russell and Ben Zobrist — have joined Bryzzo in consistently contributing offensively.

"It's very rare when you have a game where everybody hits to their full potential," said Rizzo, who had three hits and drove in four runs Wednesday. "It's guys carrying the load one day and some other guys doing it the next day."

That's been a different script than the one the Cubs were playing off of in the first three months of the season, when only Kris Bryant and Rizzo were reaching their offensive potential.

As the Cubs hit their stride and gear up for the stretch run, they're finally starting to click offensively.

And what's scary is there's still more left in the tank.

"We don't wanna leave guys on, but we want to keep putting guys on to give ourselves opportunity," Rizzo said. "As long as we come away with the win, it doesn't matter.

"We're putting together good at-bats as a unit. [Seeing a lot of pitches] is a good formula for us. We know that if we grind at-bats, good things will happen."