Carlos Pena

Cubs talk to Scott Boras about first baseman Carlos Pena


Apparently looking to replace Derrek Lee at first base with another veteran the Cubs have talked to agent Scott Boras about Carlos Pena, according to Carrie Muskat of

Muskat reports that general manager Jim Hendy met with Boras to “discuss” Pena, but no salary figures were exchanged.

Pena continued to show tons of power and patience this year, smacking 28 homers and drawing 87 walks in 144 games, but he batted just .196 and had a .732 OPS after posting a combined .935 OPS during his first three seasons with the Rays.

In addition to the Cubs’ interest Pena has also been linked heavily to the Nationals.

Nationals and Cubs “stepping up pursuit of Brandon Webb”

Brandon Webb

According to Jerry Crasnick of the Nationals and Cubs “are stepping up their pursuit of Brandon Webb” and “making a big push” to sign the former Cy Young winner amid interest from “several other clubs.”

Washington has been linked to Webb since the moment he became a free agent and Chicago’s interest was first reported a couple weeks ago.

It’ll be interesting to see if Webb can parlay multiple teams being in the mix for him into a bidding war that ultimately gets him a big chunk of guaranteed money despite his last start coming on Opening Day of 2009.

When healthy Webb was an elite starter, finishing first or second in the Cy Young balloting from 2006-2008, but he hasn’t been “right” since the first half of 2008 and the early reports on his velocity following shoulder surgery weren’t very encouraging.

Hall of Fame or not, Ron Santo ranks among the all-time great third basemen

ron santo cubs card

When someone successful and beloved dies there’s a natural tendency to perhaps overstate their greatness and at first glance it may seem as though people are doing that today in touting Ron Santo’s qualifications for the Hall of Fame after the longtime Cubs third baseman and announcer passed away yesterday.

However, in Santo’s case amplifying his greatness is completely justified and unfortunately serves as a reminder that the Hall of Fame voters have erred in leaving him out of Cooperstown for so long.

There are fewer third basemen in the Hall of Fame than any other position. There are several plausible explanations for that fact, but chief among them is that no one seems quite sure how to evaluate their performance.

Offensively they’re often lumped in with first basemen and corner outfielders, which short changes third basemen because they play a far more difficult and less offense-driven position. Yet at the same time third basemen rarely receive the type of defensive accolades reserved for middle infielders, center fielders, and catchers. They are usually caught in the middle, which underrates them on both sides of the ball.

Santo’s career has seemingly been viewed that way. His hitting stats can’t quite compete with contemporary slugging first basemen and corner outfielders like Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Willie Stargell, and Willie McCovey, yet among third basemen in the 1960s and 1970s only Eddie Mathews topped Santo’s production. And while Hall of Fame cases for players at up-the-middle positions are often based largely on defensive reputations, Santo’s five Gold Glove awards are treated almost like an afterthought.

Meanwhile, in the 1960s and 1970s only 10 players accumulated more Wins Above Replacement (WAR) than Santo: Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe Morgan, Carl Yastrzemski, Frank Robinson, Pete Rose, Roberto Clemente, Brooks Robinson, Johnny Bench, Reggie Jackson. That’s nine Hall of Famers and the all-time hit king, and two more Hall of Famers (Rod Carew and Willie McCovey) are right behind Santo in the rankings.

Among all the players in baseball history to start at least half their games at third base, Santo ranks seventh all time in Wins Above Replacement behind Mike Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Chipper Jones, and Brooks Robinson. That’s five Hall of Famers and one future Hall of Famer, yet as the No. 7 guy Santo failed to garner even 50 percent of the votes in 15 years on the ballot and died as a non-Hall of Famer four decades after retiring.

Unfortunate as that is, don’t let it keep you from knowing that Ron Santo has always been deserving of a spot in Cooperstown as a nine-time All-Star, one of the best all-around players of the 1960s and 1970s, and one of the 10 greatest third basemen of all time.