Carlos Pena to Tampa Bay is cute in a homecoming sort of way, sure. But could it be more than that? You bet.
Ever so quietly -- as usual -- the Rays are working smart and putting together another team down there by the water that will give the Yankees, Red Sox and everyone else fits this summer.
Maybe Pena, at 33, struggles to stay above the Mendoza Line anymore. But he did whack 28 homers for the Cubs last summer while collecting 80 RBI, which was exactly ... 28 more homers and 79 more RBI than the Rays got from Manny Ramirez in 2011.
Nobody, surely starting with the Rays, is expecting Pena to replicate his 2009 All-Star season (39 homers, 100 RBIs).
But Pena trumps Manny by about 1,000 miles both on the field and in the clubhouse. Together, Pena and Luke Scott, whom the Rays added as a DH bat earlier this month, should be a much more productive first base/DH combination than last year's Casey Kotchman/Johnny Damon tag team.
In fact, the Rays last summer ranked dead last among major-league first basemen in 2011 in both runs scored and RBI. Overall, Tampa Bay's 707 runs scored ranked eighth in the AL.
In Pena and Scott, they should get more production. And with a killer rotation in James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis and rookie Matt Moore or Jeff Niemann -- the Rays' 3.58 ERA in 2011 was second in the AL only to the Angels' -- there is no reason why it shouldn't carry Joe Maddon's club deep into September once again.