Astros agree to $2.9 million deal with Carlos Pena

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 18, 2012 at 10:40 am •  Published: December 18, 2012
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HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Astros wanted to add power to their lineup and a veteran presence to their young team.

They think they got both by agreeing to a $2.9 million, one-year contract with Carlos Pena.

"We believe he is exactly the kind of player we need in this organization at this time," general manager Jeff Luhnow said Monday. "We think that he's going to be a big contributor for us on the field as well as in the clubhouse next year."

Pena will be the Astros' designated hitter, addressing a key need as they prepare for their first season in the American League. But Luhnow said Pena could also play first base.

"I think he provides some flexibility because he's a left-handed batter who can play a good first base defensively," Luhnow said. "So that gives you some options ... he can still play very good first base, and we expect to see him at first base a little bit."

The 34-year-old Pena, who spent last season in his second stint with Tampa Bay, hit .197 with 19 home runs and 61 RBIs in 2012, when he made $7.5 million.

In addition to his base salary, he can earn $1.4 million in performance bonuses, $233,333 each for 350, 400, 450, 500, 550 and 600 plate appearances.

He has hit below .200 in two of the past three seasons and struck out a career-high 182 times last season. But he also draws a lot of walks — he had 87 last season — and has continued to drive in runs despite his dipping averages.

"There are so many things that I have to improve," he said. "There are so many things that I've been so good at, and other things that I've been challenged with. The game has changed so you adapt and make adjustments ... I'm always learning."

He said that he had other offers, but felt as if Houston was the right fit for him.

"Everything seems so fresh so I wanted to be part of that new identity," he said. "Hopefully as we start creating our new identity and shaping up our culture, I want to make sure that I do everything I can to start steering it in the right direction."