Reds finalize deal with former Tigers catcher Pena
Signing gives Cincy three backstops on 40-man roster, including Hanigan, Mesoraco
The Reds on Tuesday formalized their two-year agreement with catcher Brayan Pena that was first reported late last week.
The former Detroit receiver passed the requisite physical and took to Twitter to proclaim his feelings about officially joining Cincinnati:
"Im happy to announce that i will be a RED for the next couple of years , and i will wear that uniform with PROUD and RESPECT.!! Thank you !"
The Reds hope Pena is the first step in the offensive improvement general manager Walt Jocketty identified as an offseason priority in an interview last week with MLB.com.
"You have to try and improve the offense," Jocketty said. "That could be another hitter in the lineup. If we lose [Shin-Soo] Choo, we'll have to address the leadoff situation again. There's really no clear answer to that right now."
Pena, who will turn 32 in January, is a native of Havana, Cuba, but now a United States citizen. Over 71 games during his lone season with the Tigers in 2013, the switch-hitter batted .297 with a .315 on-base percentage, four home runs and 22 RBIs.
Not known as much for his defense or game calling, Pena made three errors this season and had a .995 fielding percentage. He caught 24 percent of baserunners attempting to steal.
Signed to be a backup to Alex Avila, Pena boosted the Tigers while the regular catcher struggled at the plate. Pena played more regularly in June and August while Avila spent time on the disabled list.
Pena batted .397 (25-for-63) during the month of August but was used sparingly the rest of the way once Avila returned. On Oct. 30, the Tigers told Pena that he wouldn't be brought back, and he hit the open market as a free agent.
In the big leagues since 2005, Pena has also played for the Braves (2005-08) and Royals (2009-12). Lifetime, he is batting .258 with a .292 on-base percentage, 18 homers and 120 RBIs over 406 Major League games.
Cincinnati currently has two catchers under club control on its 40-man roster. Veteran Ryan Hanigan, who completed a three-year, $4 million contract in 2013, is third-year arbitration eligible and can be a free agent after 2014. Devin Mesoraco just completed his second season in the Majors and is a year away from arbitration eligibility.
It would seem that one of the incumbent Reds catchers will need to be dealt. Considering that Mesoraco is a former first-round pick of the Reds, tabbed to make less money and showed improvement in his second season, Hanigan appears to be the best bet of the two to be traded.
A source told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that Hanigan was likely to be moved by Cincinnati.
Several teams are in search for veteran catching help with a focus on defense -- including the Rays, Mariners, Rangers, White Sox, Yankees and Phillies.
Hanigan, 33, is coming off of the worst season of his career -- offensively. He batted only .198 with a .306 on-base percentage, two homers and 21 RBIs in 75 games. Injuries may have played a part as Hanigan had two stints on the disabled list because of a strained left oblique and a sprained left wrist.
An undrafted free agent who worked his way to the big leagues, Hanigan has been a patient hitter who rarely strikes out and can get on base. He is a career .262 hitter with a .359 on-base percentage since first coming up to Cincinnati in 2007.
Hanigan's reputation is big on the defensive side. He worked with a rotation that had four starters throw 200 innings in 2012 and had a Major League-best 3.04 catcher's ERA. His caught-stealing percentages -- 48 percent in '12 and 45 percent in '13 -- were both best in the league.
This season, Hanigan caught three of the Reds' five complete games and 10 of the staff's 17 shutouts. He usually caught three of the five members of the rotation, including ace Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and veteran Bronson Arroyo. In each of the last two seasons, Hanigan was behind the plate when Bailey threw a no-hitter.
Because of Hanigan's injuries, Mesoraco got more starts, with 84. The 25-year-old batted .238 with nine homers and 42 RBIs in his 103 games -- and made a stark improvement from a rough 2012 rookie year on both offense and defense.
If Hanigan doesn't return, it looks like Mesoraco will get his chance to show what he can do on a regular basis.