Busy day in Chicago; Cubs sign Carlos Pena and White Sox sign Paul Konerko

The North side and South side both signed first basemen last night. Carlos Pena is going to the Cubs at 1/$10mil and Konerko is re-upping with the White Sox at 3/$37.5mil.

Let’s start with the North side deal because there is almost nothing to talk about. They need a first baseman. Carlos Pena is a first baseman. They signed him. Pena will be 33 years old and with aging is just an above average first baseman. Nothing special. He had an unusually poor 2010, mainly because he hit a ton of grounders. 44.9% of his balls in play were ground balls, well above his career average of 36.9%. So while his insanely low BABIP of .227 suggests bad luck, he also just didn’t swing the bat as well. He still has power- his ISO was above .200 and his HR/FB was above his career norm. He still walks a fair amount. But he didn’t hit enough line drives and power fly balls. If he can get his swing back, he should improve upon his 2010 numbers, but not too drastically. So he should be about a 2 WAR and be worth around $10mil. So it’s a solid deal for the Cubs. They won’t contend in 2011 so you can debate whether it was worth it to spend $10mil on Pena, but it’s “only” $10mil and it’s only one year. The Cubs DO need someone to play the position, so they went out and got a short term fix that won’t constrain them down the road.

The South Side deal is more noteworthy. Konerko will be getting an average salary of $12.5mil per year. Color me unimpressed. Konerko will be 35 next season, 36 in 2012, and 37 in 2013. Yet he will be paid $12.5mil. This seems like an irresponsible waste of money to me. They just signed another 1b/DH type player in Adam Dunn just a few days ago. Konerko was not needed. This also hurts Dunn’s value if they make him DH or play OF, making that deal much more of an overpay as well. But that’s besides the point. Konerko is OLD. Yes, he had a 160 wRC+ last season. But that’s an anomaly. Check out his wRC+’s from 2007-2009: 114, 106, 119. Yeah. But his BABIP was well above his career norms despite a LD% that is in line with his career average. So we should expect less fortune in 2011, which means less times on base, less extra base hits, and less offensive production, which in turn means less value. Being generous, I can start him at 2.5 in 2011. By 2013 he will be a 1.5 WAR player. So I have him being worth $29.5mil over three years. OVERPAY.

So that’s it.

I also really want the Yankees to sign Russell Martin. He would be a good catcher to split time with Jesus Montero on the cheap. Best case scenario he finds himself offensively and returns to being a 4-5 WAR player. Also, signing him would open up the possibility of trading Jesus Montero for Zack Greinke, leaving Martin as the starter until Austin Romine is ready. 1/$4mil with a club option for 2012? Please think about it Cashman.

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