LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Now that the Chicago Cubs have signed their first big free agent of the Winter Meetings, it will be interesting to see if Carlos Pena's old Tampa Bay Rays teammate -- starting pitcher Matt Garza -- will join him.
Pena is a big fan of his former teammate.
"Matt Garza is one of those pitchers that wherever he goes is going to be an incredible asset," Pena said. "It's no secret that he is extremely talented and the sky is the limit for a guy like him. I think he's got Cy Young potential, to be honest with you. His stuff is electrifying. I think anybody would like to have a guy like that."
Garza, 27, was 15-10 with a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts last season.
The Rays are in the mode of re-tooling their team while paring down salary for next season. One major league source said the Rays are looking for minor league talent that can be projected to be ready for the major leagues in the near future.
Pena said the plantar fasciitis problems that plagued him last season are in the past, and he is 100 percent after getting some new insoles in his shoes.
The real reason that Pena and agent Scott Boras wanted the one-year deal was to have the potential for Pena to hit the jackpot next season with a long-term deal. Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder, also a Boras client, will be a free agent next season. Boras will use Fielder's contract, which should come in somewhere between $20-$25 million, to set the bar extremely high for a left-handed-hitting first baseman.
Pena will be the only other left-handed hitting first baseman eligible for free agency, according to future projections.
The Cubs would have gone longer on the deal. However, this gives the team flexibility in 2012. Pena will be paid $5 million in 2011 and $5 million in January 2012 as part of a deferment for his one-year contract.
Meanwhile, the Cubs continue discussions with the Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers on possible trade scenarios. As mentioned here on numerous occasions, the Cubs would still like to add Texas infielder Chris Davis as well as reliever Darren O'Day.