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D-backs Sign Wily Mo Pena

As reported by MLBTR and's Alex Speier, and first noted on the 'Pit by TheMusician, Arizona added an outfielder today, signing veteran Wily Mo Pena to a split contract.  If Pena, still just 28 years old (he will be 29 by Opening Day), remains in the minors for the full year (off of the 40-man roster), he'll make the typical minor-league pittance, but if he cracks the big-league squad, he'll make $675,000.  Pena last appeared in the major leagues in 2008 with Washington, posting a .509 OPS (a miserable 35 OPS+) and, according to FanGraphs, ending the year over a full win below replacement-level.

Pena spent the following year, 2009, with the Mets' Triple-A affiliate, registering a mostly-unimpressive .276/.296/.414 line, and only playing in 41 games.  In 40 games last year with the Padres' Triple-A affiliate, Pena had a dramatic improvement in his triple-slash line, batting .324/.390/.556, but he also saw his minor-league K-Rate spike up to 31.7% (it had been 19.3% the year before in the Mets' system), and sported a ridiculously unsustainable .416 BABIP.  On the bright side, his ISO jumped nearly 100 points from '09 to '10 in the minors, to .232 last year.

Pena's major-league career started on a high note in 2004, when he put up a .259/.316/.527 line with 26 home runs for the Reds. All of his numbers dropped the following year, leading to a trade the next off-season to Boston for Bronson Arroyo (the Reds can safely say that they won that swap).  Pena appeared to fill a platoon role for the Red Sox, recording just over 300 plate appearances in his first year with the Red Sox, which was relatively successful - he hit .253/.319/.439.

His numbers tanked the following year in Boston, leading to his departure in a mid-season trade to the Nationals for a PTBNL, who wound up being Chris Carter (the less-highly-regarded one that the D-backs originally drafted).  After 101 games with the Nationals spanning parts of the '07 and '08 seasons, Pena was let go by Washington, and has bounced around the minors since.

Pena's career numbers are: 560 G, 1,725 PA, .253/.307/.447, 77 HR, 32.7% K-Rate, 6.1% BB-Rate, .323 wOBA.  Given Kevin Towers' plan to reduce strikeouts in 2011, I don't see how Pena fits at all, but he is supposed to be in his prime years, so it's certainly worth a chance.  Pena also bats right-handed, and features a career .277/.340/.457 line, a .797 OPS, against left-handed pitching in his career.  Perhaps as a right-handed platoon partner for Gerardo Parra or right-handed bench bat, Pena could provide value in the way that Marcus Thames did for the Yankees last year.