Another Thames?

Via Steve Adams at MLBTR, we’ve heard that five teams are interested in Wily Mo Pena. The Yankees originally signed him as an amateur free agent, then traded him away.

As Steve said, he had a strong finish in 2010 in AAA Portland and offers minimal risk. Chances are, he could be had on a minor league deal, just like Marcus Thames in 2011. So, is he worth an offer? Let’s take a look.

Pena hasn’t played in the Majors since an awful 64 game stint with the Nationals in 2008. He had a .509 OPS in 206 PAs. The year before, he split time between Boston (.675 OPS) and Washington (.855 OPS). For his career, Pena’s got a .447 SLG (.194 IsoP) but a .307 OBP (.054 IsoD, 5.87 unintentional walk rate). His career actually looks a lot like Marcus Thames’s before Marcus came back to the Yankees in 2010. Before coming to New York this past season, Thames had a career line of .243/.306/.491 (.248 IsoP, .063 IsoD, 7.74 uBB%).

If we’re imagining Pena on the Yankees, though, we’d know that it would probably be in Thames’s intended role of lefty-masher. Let’s see what Wily’s done against lefties in his career.

Like Thames, Pena looks a little better against lefties. He’s got a .340 OBP against them to go along with a .457 SLG (.344 wOBA). If he could replicate that career line in 2011, I’d be happy.

There’s also the issue of fielding. As we all know, Marcus Thames is essentially a statue in left field. Luckily, he was mostly DHing by the end of the year. Pena’s not fantastic out there (-21.8 UZR in the OF since 2002, so that’s about -3.1 per season). However, he wouldn’t be playing all that much and a -3.1 UZR is acceptable for a part time player.

Based on all of that, I think Pena would be worth looking at again. He’s not a butcher in the field and can hit lefties well. He’s also not a complete loss against righties; his rate stats are “meh” but he does have a .202 IsoP against them, so if he runs into the right pitch from a non-southpaw, he can do some damage. While Brett Gardner held his own against lefties and Curtis Granderson improved slightly against them at the end of 2010, the Yankees should still try to have a strong right handed hitter on the bench.

7 thoughts on “Another Thames?

  1. I was a huge Willy Mo Pena fan when he got sent to the Reds being as I wanted him to stay a Yankee and I really thought he had all the tools to be something at the major league level but it just never happened, if he wants to take the minor league as you said there is no risk but I wouldn’t expect the same year Marcus had.

    It’s ashame to think this is what Willy has be reduced to the guy use to have speed, power and an above averag ability to defend on the corners and could at least play CF, as was pointed out however he never learned to walk and in general his pitch recognition and ball strike recognition was never got good enough to translate. This is the guy the reds brought in to play next to Ken Griffey Jr while they stil thought he had a chance to produce but he never managed to do anything even with that teacher on the field.

  2. Mark

    Would you necessarily prefer Wily Mo to someone like Andruw Jones, Jeff Francoeur, Reed Johnson or a second tour from Xavier Nady or Austin Kearns?

    • Id much rather have Willy on a minor league deal than either Nady or Kearns or a major league one, Andruw might be had on a minor league contract and in that situation you have to go with the guy who played in the bigs next year, no thank you on Reed Johnson or Francoeur besides they would both be major league deals like Nady and Kearns.

  3. Mark

    I think the concern on my part would be that Pena’s defense would be so bad that he’d essentially become Thames in the 2nd half of 2010 — a platoon DH. With Posada and possibly Montero needing those starts, it seems that we’d have a greater need for a player who can capably play the OF corners and even CF if necessary.

    • I get the feeling you have never seen Willy play the corners… granted it’s been about 2 years since he was in the bigs but I have followed his career and watched him play as much as I could and he is no where near as bad as teams. Willy has a problem with routes but he is still an athlete he hasn’t been crippled by age in the ways Thames has and he was once a much better fielder than Marcus ever dreamed of, he has a strong enough arm although it’s probably shortened up some from his youth and could be more than justifiable in RF, although I would probably have some concerns in LF he could manage it better than Marcus.

      • Mark

        I have seen Pena play the corners, back when he was killing the ball for the Nationals in 2007. He wasn’t healthy in 2008 so I won’t hold that lost season against him. He did have a good arm and he handled everything that came his way, but he was just a large dude who didn’t show a great deal of range. He might struggle a bit in our LF but if it is only a mL deal and ST Invite, it really wouldn’t hurt to put him through the paces. The raw power remains a real useful tool. My preference would still be Andruw Jones but only if it is a 1 yr/>$2 million deal.

        • Jones is an interesting sign because the Yankees wanted to sign him last season or maybe in 09 and he decided to go elsewhere so who knows if they will re-tread that tire or go in a different direction, I would rather get Jones on a minor league deal but if it’s a small major league deal maybe 1-1.5 with incentives then I say go for it.

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