Carlos Peña and the Houston Astros agreed to a contract for 2013 on Monday, as first reported by Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. Peña will earn a $2.9 million base salary and is eligible for up to $1.4 million in incentives. Peña hit .197/.330/.354 with 19 home runs in 600 plate appearances for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012, by far his least effective season with the bat in the majors
A 2008 Gold Glove winner with the Rays, Peña is a good bet to play first base in Houston, possibly sharing time with eternal prospect Brett Wallace. But, there is another way for both to be in the lineup at the same time.
With the Astros moving to the American League in 2013, they'll use a DH in most games. Peña could play there, though it would be nice if he hit more like 2011, with the Cubs, than he did in 2012. Wallace, a first-round pick in 2008 who already has been involved in a couple of major trades, has batted .250/.323/.377 with 16 homers in 792 career plate appearances. At age 26, and with the extra at-bats now available to the Astros, this would seem his last, best chance to show he can hit major-league pitching.
Justin Maxwell, who slugged .460 with 18 homers in 352 plate appearances in 2013, is another strong possibility to see lots of time at DH.
Now, if there were any justice, the first DH in Houston Astros' AL history would be Jose Cruz.
No matter that he just turned 65 years old and hasn't played ball in nearly 25 years. The Astros, who won't contend for much in the New AL West in 2013, should activate Cruz, Minnie Minoso-style, and have him go out there for opening day against the Texas Rangers on April 1. He's always going to be Mr. Astro to me. But even if this harebrained plan works, you can't leave a 65-year-old man in the lineup for six months. This is a one-day promotion, only.
The Astros probably aren't going to sign Lance Berkman, who would fit in Houston anywhere, and as a DH in any lineup. But for him to endure the losing that's ahead for the 'Stros would be cruel. It would get real old, real quick. And what happens if Berkman hits well? Will the Astros put Berkman on the trading block again and re-start the whole process? Will they be talking about bringing him back to Houston again in 2014 or 2015? The Astros will need a DH in those seasons, too, you know.