Buster Olney reports that the Washington Nationals are “enthusiastic” about their chances of signing free agent first baseman Carlos Pena.
Interesting choice of words in that I don’t think as signing of Pena would bring much enthusiasm to Nats fans. Sure, he’s a more productive hitter than his [gulp] .196 average would suggest, but that’s faint praise. He needs to hit better to be able to carry first base, even on a last place team. There’s a chance that he could improve with a move to the National League, but at 33, improvement is by no means assured.
The interesting thing about this is that the guy Pena would replace — Adam Dunn — was derided by many because they saw only the strikeouts and didn’t appreciate that his great plate patience made him far more valuable than the average fan suspected. Pena would be an even more extreme case of that, with terrible contact hitting subbing in for Dunn’s K’s. Oh, and a good 10-12 fewer homers too.
Jim Salisbury of CSN Philly reports that the Phillies are close to signing free agent reliever Joaquin Benoit. An announcement is expected before the winter meetings end on Thursday.
Benoit, 39, has quietly been among the better relievers in baseball over the past seven years. This past season with the Mariners and Blue Jays, the right-hander put up an aggregate 2.81 ERA with a 52/24 K/BB ratio in 48 innings. That included a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 innings after the Jays acquired him from the Mariners.
Benoit suffered a torn calf muscle during a benches-clearing brawl with the Yankees near the end of the regular season. He’s expected to be healthy for spring training.
The Phillies have now added three relievers this offseason with Benoit, Pat Neshek, and David Rollins.
ESPN’s Pedro Gomez provides a previously unreported detail of the new collective bargaining agreement, agreed to by the owners and the players’ union last week. Players’ meal money for road games is being reduced from $105 to $30 per day. Teams are providing pre- and post-game meals in the visitors’ clubhouse to offset some of the decrease in meal money.
Gomez quotes an unnamed player who said, “I doubt many guys know about the money going down, nor would they have agreed to it.” All of the players Gomez contacted said they were unaware of and unhappy about the change.
Clubhouse attendants are certainly unhappy about this change, too. As Gomez notes, the attendants previously provided food for visiting teams which earned them tips from the players.
EDIT: It’s worth clarifying that chefs are required in clubhouses now as part of the new CBA, so it’s not a complete loss for the players.