In an interesting decision, former Cincinnati Reds' catcher Brayan Pena decided to not only ink a multi-year contract with a division rival in the St. Louis Cardinals, but the 11-year veteran will also give up his starting role for the opportunity to back up Yadier Molina.
Pena, who has 11 years of major league experience with four different teams before the Cardinals, signed a two-year, $5 million contract with St. Louis today.
Insurance Signing For St. Louis
For the Cardinals, the signing of Pena has a single purpose: to ensure that they have a reliable backup to Molina, their All-Star catcher. The Cardinals had not made it a secret that they wanted an upgrade at the backup catcher position, the slot that career .220 hitter Tony Cruz had possessed for five years. However, when Molina went down to injury in 2014, Cruz hit .200 on the year and the Cardinals were forced to make a trade deadline deal with the Boston Red Sox to get a suitable starting catcher. Having Pena to back up Molina gives the Cardinals some comfort as Pena, a career .260 hitter, has proven himself to be a solid catcher, particularly in his last two years as a starter with the Reds. Pena's greatest asset is his ability to not strike out often - he did so just 76 times in two years with the Reds - which enables him to hit for a decent average. He has little power or speed, but he provides decent defense and will be a good weapon off the bench for St. Louis.
Pena Gets More Money To Play For Perennial Contender
Though it may seem odd to some that Pena is giving up his starting role in Cincinnati, Pena's signing gives the veteran catcher a chance to play on a contending team. In his last seven years, Pena's squad has reached the postseason once - in 2013 when he played for one year with the Detroit Tigers. Besides that, the teams that Pena has played on have largely not come close to contending. He started for the Reds the last two years, but the Reds finished fourth and fifth in the N.L. Central Division in consecutive years. From 2009-2012, Pena played with the then-hapless Kansas City Royals and, in Pena's first four years in the majors, he played with the Atlanta Braves, whom he made the playoffs just one time during Pena's stint there. So Pena, using his solid two years in Cincinnati, inked a contract for five million over two years to be a backup catcher - but he gets to back up one of the best catchers in the game on a perennial contending team. Pena, who made just $1.4 million last year, a career-high, will make $2.5 million dollars in 2016. The salary increase came thanks to Pena's two years with the Reds, where he hit .263.
Pena Thankful For His Opportunity In Cincinnati
Though Pena is leaving his team of the past two years, he took to social media to reach out to the Reds' organization, as well as Reds fans. "Reds fans, I want to thank you guys so much for all your love and respect for me and my family, my time there was AMAZING, thank you so much," said Pena on his twitter account, adding, "To my teammates, coaches, trainers, front office people, everybody who works on and off the field for Reds Nation, THANK YOU SO MUCH."