Rays bring back slugger Pena for one year

Rays bring back slugger Pena for one year

Published Jan. 20, 2012 12:18 p.m. ET

Carlos Pena is returning to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Early Friday afternoon, the 33-year-old free agent, who played in 2011 for the Chicago Cubs, signed a one-year, $7.25-million deal to resume his role as the Rays’ first baseman.

Pena hit .225 for Chicago with 28 homers and 80 RBI last season, following his final year with Tampa Bay in 2010 when he batted .196 with 28 homers and 84 RBI. The Rays clearly wanted to ramp up their power quotient in the lineup, and Pena should do that along with recently acquired lefty slugger Luke Scott.

The liability with Pena, of course, is strikeouts. He fanned 161 times with the Cubs, following 158 in 2010, 163 in 2009 and 168 in 2008.

He also has struggled to hit for average, with .227 representing Pena's high in the past three seasons. That's quite a drop from the .306 that Casey Kotchman hit in his one season with the Rays last year.

But the Seminole native only hit 10 homers in a position that traditionally generates power in the lineup, and the Rays have been determined to pack more of a punch in 2012. With Pena and Scott in the batting order, that potential is now there.

Pena hit 144 homers for the Rays from 2007-10 and was an All-Star in 2009.

He brings two elements the Rays lose by not bringing back Johnny Damon and Kotchman. Like Damon, he's known for strong leadership and a positive influence in the clubhouse. And like Kotchman, he's one of the best defensive first basemen in the game.

The Cleveland Indians were reportedly interested in both Pena and Kotchman, and that could now be where Kotchman winds up.

More to come later today as the story develops.