The last time Seattle Mariners fans heard the name Wily Mo Pena, it was 2011 and he was batting .209 in 22 games for Seattle. After that season, Pena left the Mariners, left Major League Baseball and left the country. He elected to try his luck in Japan.
Over the past three seasons – two with the Fukoka Softbank Hawks and one with the Orix Buffaloes – Pena has been finding his stroke. He hit 54 homers and drove in 182 runs over the past three years and was named to the All-Star team in the Pacific League in 2014.
His breakout season was 2014, where Pena hit 32 of his homers and had an OPS of .830. Now, he is a free agent again and has interest in returning to the States.
Why do I bring this up? Because taking a flyer on Pena might make sense for the Mariners.
Before you try to run me out of town, I’m not suggesting that the Mariners sign Pena instead of a bat like Nelson Cruz or Hanley Ramirez or instead of trading for Matt Kemp or Justin Upton. I’m saying that his signing might make sense in addition to one or more of those moves.
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If the M’s are indeed set on trading Michael Saunders this offseason, signing a veteran like Wily Mo would add depth on the bench and bring in a solid right-handed bat against lefites (career .275 hitter against LHP).
Pena could be used when giving Upton (assuming a trade) or Dustin Ackley a day off. If the M’s keep Saunders and manage to only sign Cruz, you could use Pena in a platoon in right field with Saunders.
Earlier this year, Pena’s power was on display as he launched a home run into the roof of the Tokyo Dome. Check out this highlight reel of Pena’s homers this year.
And before you get started on the whole “Well, that was in Japan” nonsense, consider that the MLB All-Stars were just embarrassed by Samurai Japan in the recent Japan Series, including being no-hit in one of the games. If you don’t consider the Japanese League to be at least similar to that of Major League Baseball, you aren’t paying attention.
According to Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the Minnesota Twins have interest in the soon-to-be 33 year-old.
Not sure how much money it would take to sign a guy like Pena, but I can’t imagine it would take much. Outbidding the Twins may only mean paying $3M instead of $2.5M.
Now, some people would liken his signing to that of Corey Hart last year. An unknown risk that didn’t pan out. But if the Mariners do end up moving Saunders, why not take a flyer on the seemingly new-and-improved Wily Mo?
If he can contribute anywhere near what he managed to contribute in 2014, that would be one hell of a bat to have in the 6 hole.