I’m sure you’ve heard by now that the Indians have interest in both Carlos Pena and Casey Kotchman. Those are names that have been tossed around for much of the off-season, but there seems to be evidence that the Indians are more serious contenders for Pena at this point. According to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer, ownership was approached about a potential Pena deal.
As a fan, would you rather see Pena or Kotchman? Or neither of these players? I decided to take a look at their stats to see how they may fit into an Indians lineup. One important point worth mentioning: the Indians 40-man roster is currently full. Someone would have to be dropped in order to make room for either player.
The 28-year-old Kotchman (who will turn 29 before the season starts), has bounced around between a number of teams throughout his Major League career. He spent 2011 with the Tampa Bay Rays, where he hit .306/.378/.422 with 10 home runs in 500 at-bats. He benefited from the abrupt retirement of Manny Ramirez; when Ramirez left, Kotchman was promoted from Triple-A to take his roster spot. While those are extremely solid numbers, they are well above his career totals of .268/.336/.398. The other down side with Kotchman is that he is left-handed; the Indians could really use a right-handed power bat. There are some pluses to Kotchman – he is very solid defensively and would probably come at a cheaper cost than Pena.
After spending his entire career in the American League, the 33-year-old Pena spent 2011 with the Chicago Cubs where he hit .225/.357/.462 with 28 home runs in 493 at-bats. This is slightly below his career numbers of .239/.352/.486. Like Kotchman (and many of the Indians’ hitters), Pena also hits left handed. Pena has a great deal of power – each year since 2007 his home run totals are 46, 31, 39, 28 and 28.
To put Pena’s home run totals in perspective, in 2011 Carlos Santana led the Indians in home runs with 27, Asdrubal Cabrera hit 25, and Travis Hafner hit 13. The only other people on the team to hit double-digit home run totals were Shelley Duncan and Matt LaPorta (11), and Grady Sizemore (10). It’s kind of amazing when you consider that Hafner, Duncan, LaPorta and Sizemore had limited at-bats in 2011. Pena is relatively durable (knock on wood)…he’s had 470+ at-bats over the past 5 years. If you throw Pena into that lineup that includes Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera, along with a hopefully healthy Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, it could be pretty formidable to opposing teams.
So obviously you can see where my loyalties lie – if it’s a choice between Kotchman and Pena, I’d rather see the Indians cough up the money for Pena. He could DH at times to give Hafner some days off, and to get Matt LaPorta some at-bats (or to give Santana some time at first). The only problem with Pena is that he is represented by Scott Boras, an agent with whom the Indians usually avoid dealing. There have been rumors that Pena wants a multi-year deal; since nobody on the Indians is signed beyond 2012, they may be opposed to offering more than one year for Pena.
It will be interesting to see what the Indians do. I still think they’ll make at least one free agent signing, and Pena could be that player. Josh Judy has already been designated for assignment after the Aaron Cunningham signing; another move would be necessary with a Pena signing (or any player signed on a Major League deal for that matter).