The St. Louis Cardinals have added their first free agent of the 2015-2016 off-season in catcher Brayan Pena. The 33-year-old has agreed to terms on a two-year contract totalling $5 million, per the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The Cuban native left his homeland for the USA in 1999 and signed with the Atlanta Braves in 2000. Pena has played for the Braves, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds in an MLB career that began in 2005.
In 620 career games, the switch-hitter has a line of .260/.300/.352/.652 with 23 home runs and 164 RBI. With the Reds the last two seasons, Pena appeared in a career-high 108 and 115 games, respectively. That includes a career-high 86 games caught last season (86) while batting .273 with a career-high .334 on-base percentage. Pena can also play first base.
Brian Walton’s take
With the salary of current reserve catcher Tony Cruz about to spike via arbitration, this signing makes it clear the Cardinals want better offense from the position. In five MLB seasons, Cruz is a .220 hitter, but his most recent three years were just .203, .200 and .204, respectively.
The hope from here is that manager Mike Matheny will be more comfortable with Pena than Cruz as the alternative to give 33-year-old starting catcher Yadier Molina more frequent rest in 2016 and 2017.
In 2015, Molina was on pace to start a career-high 148 games behind the plate before suffering a September injury that kept him off the field for the second consecutive year as the Cardinals were eliminated from the post-season.
At least for now, the Cardinals have 37 players on their 40-man roster, but that is almost certain to drop in the next 48 hours.
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