Was signing Wily Mo Pena to the minors a genius move by the Cleveland Indians that no one else could see? Or is the organization a bunch of dreamers?
The Cleveland Indians announced their recent deal with Wily Mo Pena earlier this week and dropped the mic. They offered him a minor league contract, but left out an invite to this year’s Spring Training. He could make up to $700,000 if he climbs up to the Indians’ roster.
The baseball world is trying to figure out why the Indians signed a ghost to their minor league system.
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Was this a genius move by the Indians that no one else could see? Or is the organization a bunch of dreamers?
Before electing free agency from the Seattle Mariners in 2011, he hit .204/.284/.343 in his 39 major league games played that year. No MLB team selected his contract after that, so he went to Japan.
After signing a two-year contract with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, Pena was sent to the Japan Pacific League (JPPL). In his first year with the Hawks, he hit a solid .280 in his 130 games, driving in 76 RBI and 21 home runs.
Staying in Japan, Pena signed with the Orix Buffaloes in 2014, hitting 32 home runs and 90 RBI, batting .255/.344/.486. In 2015, Pena continued to do well for the Rakuten Golden Eagles, hitting .268/.396/.448.
In 2016, not much baseball happened for Pena. This year, he is 35. Cleveland has a thing for older sluggers, e.g. Mike Napoli and Edwin Encarnacion, and they liked the slugging percentages Pena gathered in Japan.
In fact, Pena is not a far-fetched idea for the Indians. The team values having a plan. Specifically, they value reliable backup to fill in for their power players—that’s how they made it to the World Series last year. Pena could be a good fallback in case the team needs a backup slugger to be brought up from the minors.
The Indians likely carefully researched and actively studied Pena’s abilities, projections, and potential before even considering signing him. I’m thinking this is an extremely planned out move that will take time to see the benefits of signing him.