Throwback Thursday came early for the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday evening.
Despite a six-year hiatus away from professional baseball in America, the Tribe inked 35-year-old Wily Mo Pena to a minor league deal with a $700K bonus if he makes the MLB club, according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and FanRag Sports.
Over the last five seasons, Pena has primarily played overseas in Japan as a member of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (2012-13), Orix Buffaloes (2014) and Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles (2015). His most notable campaign came in 2014 when he registered a .255/.344/.486 slash line with 32 home runs and an .830 OPS in 140 games played.
Largely regarded as an under-performing bat at the major league level, Pena will have to prove his worth at both the first base and left field positions and could act as insurance for Michael Brantley (shoulder) this spring. The Dominican Republic native clubbed 84 home runs (599 games) in the MLB and 71 bombs (450 games) in the JPPL (Japan Pacific League).
The glaring flaw in Pena's career stat line is his strikeout percentage in 2005 with the Cincinnati Reds (34.6%) and 2011 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners (32.5%).
This flyer of a signing could pay dividends if Pena can rediscover his glory year in 2004 in which he batted .259/.316/.527 with 26 home runs and an .854 OPS.
Pena will join his fellow positional players in Goodyear, AZ for minor league camp this February.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.