Friday, April 14, 2006

Carlos Pena

From Newsday:
With defensive flaws exposed at the start of their season and alternatives being weighed to shore things up, the Yankees have entered into serious discussions with former Tigers first baseman Carlos Pena.

The Red Sox, Dodgers and Chiba Lotte Marines also have shown interest in Pena, but baseball officials indicate the Yankees may be Pena's most likely destination.

Bobby Valentine's Marines have considered Pena, but the Yankees may be too great a lure for the lefthanded-hitting Pena, who's spent most of his brief career with the losing Tigers.

While Pena was an inconsistent hitter with the Tigers, he is considered adept defensively, which is what piques the Yankees' interest. It has quickly become apparent that defense is an area of worry on their $200-million team.

The Yankees made no serious move to sign Pena in the first days after he was released March 26 by the Tigers. However, according to people with knowledge of the situation, manager Joe Torre has become increasingly concerned about defensive liabilities and now favors signing Pena.

Signing Pena in isolation would not be a bad move. He's a major league average hitter. He's a good defensive 1st baseman. He hits lefty. In a strictly platooned role (he doesn't see an at bat against a left handed pitcher all year), Pena can be a good signing. Over the past three years, Pena hit .253/.352/.479 against righties. And he's just 27 years old.

The problem? The only way to make room for Pena is to kick Phillips off the roster. With 11 pitchers right now, Pavano and Small back in a month, and Dotel not long after that, we only have four real bench spots. Those spots are taken by Phillips, Cairo, Crosby, and Stinnet. Unless we dramatically cut back our bullpen (cutting two of Wright, Pavano, Small, Proctor, and Sturtze), we won't have room for both Phillips and Pena. Now, these two would actually be a pretty effective platoon at 1b, if Giambi goes down, so we'll see what happens in the long run. I just fear that Torre simply refuses to use Phillips for no good reason, and has ordered Cashman to find him a grizzled veteran.

Look, Phillips may or may not have the ability to hit in the major leagues. We can't determined that yet. We do know that Phillips could flat out destroy AAA pitching, and the only reason that he hadn't done so at the majors so far was because we couldn''t find a defensive position for him. But we won't know if Phillips can hit major league pitching or not until he is given a chance.

Torre, give the guy a chance, or have Cashman trade him. He deserves a shot at making a career for himself.