The Astros have signed their first Free Agent of the winter, agreeing to terms on a one year deal worth approximately $2.9 mil plus incentives with 1B/DH Carlos Pena. Pena will split duties with Brett Wallace and become the club’s first ever DH as they make the transition to the AL West. This is all but ends the idea of a possible homecoming between the Astros and former Astro and Houston native, Lance Berkman.
Pena will have a chance to earn an additional $1.4 million in incentives. The Astros’ plan seems to be to have Pena and Brett Wallace share the 1B and DH duties, though Pena figures to play 1B more often than Wallace as Pena is a superior defender. The 34-year-old batted just .197 with 19 homers for the Rays in 2012. Nate Freiman, the Astros Rule 5 Draft selection, also figures to get in some playing time as he will need to be on the big league roster all season or offered back to the Padres for $20K.
The Pena signing gives GM Jeff Luhnow another trade chip to play with come July if Pena is having a good season. While his batting average has been terrible recently, his power and OBP are still there. He figures to likely bring back a prospect or two come the trading deadline, unless of course, Brett Wallace is moved instead. Add in the fact that Freiman may start producing sooner rather than later and all of a sudden the 1B/DH positions will become crowded. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that top prospect Jonathan Singleton will likely be up at the big league level at some point this season. All in all, this is a nice, cheap signing for the Astros.