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Sorry, Lance Berkman: Carlos Pena signs with the Astros

Dec 17, 2012, 1:00 PM EST

The Astros had been talking to Lance Berkman to be their DH and play some first base. It seems as though they’re going in a different direction now, though:

Probably less money than Berkman was looking for, based on previous reports.

Pena has always been a low-average hitter, and that was OK when he hit for a lot of power and took walks. He still walked 87 times last year but his homers dipped to 19 and his doubles went down by ten from the year before. That left an ugly line of .197/.330/.354.  In light of that he represents some pretty major uncertainty. Although Berkman would have as well, just less with performance than with health.

In other news, now that Pena has signed with Jeff Luhnow’s new-look Astros after having previously played for Andrew Friedman’s Rays, Theo Epstein’s Red Sox and Billy Beane’s A’s, he’s only one punch short on the “sign with a SABR-friendly general manager” card from a free contract.

  1. tampajoey - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:03 PM

    That will help them get out of last place… LMAO. Good luck Astros with Pena! You’ll need it.

  2. braddavery - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:12 PM

    Berkman is what, 10X better of a player than Pena and could probably be had for less? Bravo, Astros. Now sign Roger Clemens and start the new start with a bang.

    • spudchukar - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:26 PM

      Better yes, cheaper no. Maybe $7 mil perhaps. As a Cards fan I would like to have him as insurance, but I am of the opinion that he wants to go somewhere, where he can play everyday and the Cards cannot promise him that. But they do have the bucks, and they might as well try and spend them on Berkman, can’t think of anybody who could offer more.

  3. DiscountMescan - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:13 PM

    The last time he was relevant was when Moneyball came out.

  4. thekingdave - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    Yes, because Luhnow’s thought process was exactly that. Sign Carlos Pena, become a winning team. Nevermind, that makes zero sense. It’s accepted fact there are two or three more rough seasons left.

    • braddavery - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:30 PM

      Well, yeah. When you sign guys who can hit under .200 in a full season, you certainly will have rough seasons ahead.

    • stex52 - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:25 PM

      But how do you explain this deal? Are you expecting a big resurgence at age 35 in 2013?

  5. bigtrav425 - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    How this guy is in the majors is a f/n mystery…I don’t care if you can hit 25 homers! A .200 batting average kills it for me

    • albertmn - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      Well, if the power was still there and the OBP was closer to .360 or .370, the batting average would be less of an issue, even though it looks bad to non-sabr fans.

  6. jeffa43 - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:28 PM

    All that did was fill a position, and overpay for it as well.

    Pathetic signing, and I can already see the strikeouts adding up. I try and look at the positive, so I will not mention what I feel the downside is.

    I rather see a few prospects get a taste of the big club, and you would at least still get a 195 hitter.

    Like Jake said when he got out of prison… When Elwood picked him up in a police car….
    whats this… this stupid car… errr trade.
    You dont like it….

    No, I dont like it one bit.

    • stex52 - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:20 PM

      And I’ve been getting grief from you guys for my negativity. Even that pathetic outfield they had last year had guys in it who could put up a .680 OPS. And it would probably take two of them to get to his strikeout total.

      Show me something that says the Astros are REALLY working on getting better. Haven’t seen it yet.

      • jeffa43 - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:39 PM

        No grief from me Stex…. I think you got grief for saying you would rather watch the Cards…. I will admit, I watched Berkman when he went to the darkside, but I just appreciated Lance. I still wanted St. Loui to lose.

        I still love your comment on our GM…

        Jeff “LOSE NOW” is a great name for him.

        I/we true Astro fans understand we are going to lose for a while, but this resembles Kaz Matsui for 3years 16 million. This does not help rebuilding in any way shape or form. It takes away from our youth.

      • stex52 - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:45 PM

        I guess if the Yankees are considering Vernon Wells, we should count ourselves lucky. I regard Pena as being somewhat more likely to have a good year left in him.

        But I am emphatically not a believer.

  7. aceshigh11 - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:34 PM

    Wow…talk about an ignominious slide into career oblivion.

    I can remember only a few years ago when Pena was a bona fide Red Sox killer and a feared slugger.

    His batting average and strikeouts over the past 4 seasons are jaw-droppingly abysmal.

  8. kelshannon19 - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:47 PM

    This is absolutely pathetic. As an Astros fan I’m just disgusted. I was really hoping for Berkman. I don’t give a damn how many homers you hit, when you hit .197, get the F out. A rebuilding team does not need this trash wasting at bats and taking them from the young guys. Jeff Luhnow, I’ve trusted all your moves since you came here, but this one is easily your worst.

    • stex52 - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:28 PM

      I didn’t think Berkman was the answer; I’m not sure his knees will take it.

      But this guy sure isn’t.

    • jeffa43 - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:29 PM

      I was really hoping for Berkman as well…. It would at least give us something to look forward to 5X a game.

      As a fellow Astro fan, we understand all we got going is loyalty, as there is nothing going on related to solid baseball.

      Berkman was/is a smart hitter. He has forgotten more about hitting than Pena will ever know.

      Lance has the potential to hit 20, and hit 300 as well. Pena has no chance at 250, and will K 125.

  9. Chris Fiorentino - Dec 17, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Whenever I hear Carlos Pena’s name, I think of how he was traded in Moneyball to open the door for the MVP of the A’s 2002 season to play first base…Scott Hatteberg. Without that trade, the A’s would not have won 103 games, including 20 games in a row! Hatteberg probably should have been in the running for the AL MVP that year, and I am amazed he didn’t get a single vote. Shame on the BBWAA.

  10. buddaley - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:28 PM

    How about a little modesty rather than certainty in assessing the deal. Over the last 3 years, Baseball Prospectus has Pena’s WAR at 1.7, 2.3 & .4. Fangraphs has them at 1.2, 2.7 & .9. Using those numbers as a basis for determining value, the contract ranks as either a fair deal or a steal for Houston.

    Pena is no longer the valuable player he was with the Rays for a few years. He is probably in decline, and his Ks are irritating. But he is not terribly old, and Houston had no DH nor much of a first baseman either. He isn’t retarding Singleton’s career. Houston is unlikely to contend in 2013, so signing an inexpensive player with some power and patience to fill a hole for a year does no harm and could reap some benefits if he helps with a few games or becomes attractive to another team. Going to a better hitting environment may help also.

    Interesting to note that his line drive rate last year was his highest since 2003 and nearly 5-6 points higher than it had been the previous 2 years while his BABIP remained very low. It is disturbing that while his fly ball rate was down, his HR/FB has decreased steadily and dramatically. So he may indeed be a waste, but hardly a serious problem on a 1 year, low salary contract.

  11. Charles Gates - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    2012 OPS:
    Astros .673
    Pena .684

    2012 OBP
    Astros .302
    Pena .330

    2012 OPS+
    Astros 83
    Pena 94

    • stex52 - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:37 PM

      Tell me something I didn’t know. But not relevant. Those are team numbers. (including pitchers, catchers, etc.) Your DH had better be able to beat those.

    • jeffa43 - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      Is that supposed to be an upgrade?

      You are comparing numbers to a team that was in reach of the worst ever…. 2 years in a row.

      Stex is on the money, that is pitchers and minor leaguers who would never have made it on any other big league roster.

      Your arguement only makes since to me If you are in Penas family, if not I don’t see where you are coming from.

      • Charles Gates - Dec 17, 2012 at 10:08 PM

        So you’re basically admitting that he is an upgrade over their present offense (regardless of what that current level of production is)? That’s my point.

  12. braddavery - Dec 17, 2012 at 2:59 PM

    Vladimir Guerrero would be a better option. Literally.

  13. kkolchak - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    These days, he looks more like Wily Mo Pena.

  14. paperlions - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:27 PM

    It’s a 1-yr deal, for cheap, to fill a spot. Hell, the Cardinals wasted more money on each of Choate and Wiggington….and they are supposed to be competing this year.

    Any cheap, 1-yr deal for the Astros is irrelevant to the long-term….these are exactly the kinds of deals they should be making while the re-build the organization (from rookie ball all the way to MLB).

  15. kelshannon19 - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    I just read on twitter that Luhnow is still pursuing Berkman.

  16. unlost1 - Dec 17, 2012 at 4:24 PM

    UNBELIEVABLEY HE’S ALREADY 0-4 with 3 strikeouts and the season hasn’t even started!

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