The Kansas City Royals have been busy making moves to try to catch the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central. The Royals have added three new starting pitchers since the end of the 2012 season and clearly have caught the attention of the Tigers. Just about 12 hours after KC pulled off a blockbuster trade to land James Shields, the Tigers felt compelled to respond with a move of their own.
On Monday, the Tigers announced a one-year contract with Brayan Pena. Yep, that Brayan Pena. The one who has spent the last four seasons with the Royals. Oh yeah, score one for the Tigers in this game of AL Central oneupsmanship.
Ok, so it’s been a slow Monday around CttP headquarters.
Pena was inked to be the backup catcher behind former all-star Alex Avila and Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says that Pena will play a significant role in 2013. Of course, ideally Pena won’t see the field but in about 40 games. If he plays much more than that, the Tigers are probably in big trouble.
The switch-hitting Pena isn’t an accomplished hitter from either side, but he fares better as a left handed hitter facing righties. Unfortunately, Avila hits left handed, so the bulk of Pena’s at bats figure to come from his weaker side going forward. In order to clear room on the 40-man roster for the Pena signing, the Tigers designated the contract of minor league pitcher Matt Hoffman for assignment. Hoffman, 24, spent the 2012 season at Triple-A Toledo.
This signing is interesting to me only because Dombrowski had made it a point earlier in the off-season to say that young Bryan Holaday could handle the backup catching duties in 2013. The Tigers typically like to add a veteran backstop on a minor league contract to serve as their emergency guy, but Pena gets a big league contract here, which indicates that he’ll be on the roster coming out of camp while Holaday returns to the minor leagues.
When it all comes down to it, Pena is probably not as good as Gerald Laird, whom the Tigers chose not to pursue after he posted a strong campaign for them in 2012. He’s probably not even much better, if at all, than Holaday. But again, we are talking about a backup catcher. It probably won’t matter much either way.