Should The Rays Trade Carlos Pena?

I must admit I've thought of this scenario before. I mean it's natural for any Rays fan to question how long a high priced player will be on the roster. It's the nature of the beast we've chosen to follow. Since Joel Sherman brought up Carlos Pena's name yesterday, I decided it was time to look into it. Should (the situation present itself) the Rays trade Carlos Pena?

The answer is yes and here is why. The answer is yes as long as the deal makes the Rays better in 2009 and 2010. Whether this is Cliff Lee, Victor Martinez or both, if we need/can trade Carlos Pena to make it happen then by all means do it. We love you Carlos, but good luck. I know that sounds harsh and I am a huge Carlos Pena fan, but I'm a Rays fan first and foremost and when thinking of potential trades we must put our emotions and personal favorites aside.

Off the bat people will say we will not be able to replace Pena's leadership, his clubhouse leadership and his heart. That may all be well and true, but last time I checked we don't have a metric for heart or leadership, but I'm sure fangraphs.com is working on it. What we do have is good ol' stats.

Despite his 25 home runs, Pena is having his worst season with the Rays. His .217/.348/.496 falls well short of his monster 2007 season of .282/.411/.627 and is still short of his 2008 campaign of .247/.377/.496. Despite his .217 average, Carlos is still hitting the ball with authority and that's good. He nearly has as many doubles (19) as he did in 2007 (29) and 2008 (24). His ISO is also still above average at .279,

The problem hasn't been extra base hits or power; it's been the other facets of Pena's game, most namely getting on base via the walk. Pena is what he is, a three outcome player for the most part. While the home run part of the equation has remained stellar, the other two have not. As FreeZorilla pointed out, Pena has become an even more free swinger than in years pass.

BB%

K%

BB/K

OSwing%

2007

17.4

29

0.73

19.8

2008

16.4

33.9

0.58

20.8

2009

15.6

36.8

0.50

23.0

Pena is just swinging more and more. Not only is his O-Swing his highest since joining the Rays, but his swings inside the zone are also up. The bad news is the contact he's making on those pitches and just pitches overall is down.

Swing%

Miss%

Contact%

ZSwing%

ZContact

2007

42.1

29.7

70.3

71.1

78.4

2008

43.5

29.5

70.5

70.7

77

2009

45.4

33.8

66.2

74.1

73.8

Another argument people are going to make is Pena's gold glove defense. While that may have been true is years past, it's not in 2009. In fact, Pena is the teams worst defender and has arguably been the worst defensive first basemen in the AL. I know that sounds ridiculous, but his -3.5 UZR is a full run plus worst than the next lowest, Justin Morneau -2.3. Of course, we know better than to look at one year of defensive data, but given Pena's age and a trending decline in range, there is a concern.

Much of Pena's defensive value last year was because of his errors, or lack there of. Pena made just two errors in 132 games. This year he has eight in 99 games. Errors are subjective, but range is not. Here are Pena's RngR or Range Runs Above Average for the past three years...

 

RngR

2007

3.4

2008

1.4

2009

-2.2

Not the trend you want to see for a 31 year-old first basemen.

So this begs the question, we'll with all that being said, why would a team want Pena? Well, like I said Pena can still mash with the best of them and while his contract is pricey for the Rays next year ($10 million), there are teams that can afford to pay him for his offense only. Ideally, the Rays would keep Pena and move him to the DH, but we are locked with Pat Burrell for the 2010 season.

I'll end this by saying, I DO NOT WANT TO TRADE CARLOS PENA. However, if the Rays are really hot and heavy for Cliff Lee and Victor Martinez AND they can find a team willing to give up some value for Carlos Pena, then it is Andrew Friedman's obligation to make that deal whether our emotions like it or not.

*numbers as of Tuesday afternoon*

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