Is Carlos Peña The Last Piece In Yankees' Puzzle?

CINCINNATI, OH: Carlos Pena of the Chicago Cubs follows through on a two-run homer in the first inning during a game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Carlos Peña's still a free agent, and the New York Yankees still need someone who can mash right-handed pitchers and fill half of a DH platoon. A match made in heaven?

Are the Yankees about to seal the deal on their 100-win 2012 season?

Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Winning 100 games is harder than people think. But they're certainly not done trying to put exactly that sort of season together. From ESPN New York:

Carlos Pena told MLB Network Radio that the Yankees have contacted him about potentially filling their void at DH, but he's keeping all his options open, the station tweeted Sunday.

The 33-year-old Pena hit .225 (.357 on-base percentage) with 28 home runs and 80 RBIs for the Cubs last season. He also plays first base meaning he could fill in occasionally for Mark Teixeira.

Peña would be a great fit for the Yankees, who do still have one small hole in their roster: lefty-hitting designated hitter.

"But wait!" you might be saying. "Didn't the Yankees just trade an ideal full-time designated hitter?"

Why yes, they certainly did. Jesus Montero, by most accounts, would have slotted in nicely as the Yankees' DH for the next, oh, 12 or 15 seasons. Just one little problem, though: In some of those seasons, Alex Rodriguez will lay a pretty hefty claim to that spot. Because he's sure as hell not going to be healthy enough to play third base much longer, and first base is occupied.

So the Yankees don't need a long-term DH; they need a short-term DH, and ideally one who could combine with Andruw Jones to form a productive platoon.

Someone like Carlos Peña.

Peña's certainly not a great hitter, and at 34 isn't likely to become a great hitter. And he can't hit left-handed pitchers at all. But again, as a Yankee he wouldn't be asked to face left-handed pitchers. Not often, anyway. And he's got a career .255/.370/.513 line against right-handed pitchers. Even better, Yankee Stadium III is essentially designed to reward left-handed power hitters; in fact, it's probably the friendliest ballpark in all the major leagues to a left-handed power hitter.

Essentially, Carlos Peña is exactly the sort of player the Yankees could really use right now.

Which doesn't mean they're going to get him. Even if Peña's willing to take a pay cut from his $10 million salary last season -- and I'm not convinced he should, though he might eventually have to -- his contract will presumably push the Yankees over their arbitrary payroll "limit". Also, he might well think he deserves to play first base, and to play first base every day. Which of course isn't going to happen with the Yankees.

Still, they can be persuasive. So can the excellent prospect of a World's Championship ring.

Oh, and one more thing: This would not be the first time the Yankees coveted Carlos Peña. Sometimes things just take a bit longer than you think.

Update: According to Jon Heyman, this isn't happening:

#yankees are telling people they only have $1-2M for dh spot. So no pena. And damon doesn't seem likely at that price, either
Jan 16 via Mobile WebFavoriteRetweetReply

Would Peña play for $2 million? Well, the jobs for first basemen are running out and it would beat digging ditches. Also, what the Yankees are "telling people" and what they're actually thinking aren't exactly the same thing. But it's entirely possible that management simply figures the American League East is already well in hand, with Carlos Peña or without him.

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