I’ve left it open as a possible explanation for the lack of movement today, but it looks like it could be possible that the reason the Chicago Cubs are keeping Carlos Pena – and telling other teams they’re doing so – is because the offers they’ve received on him weren’t worthwhile.
According to Phil Rogers (info received secondhand via Josh Timmers of BCB), the primary reason the Cubs haven’t dealt Carlos Pena is because they haven’t received an offer they deemed worth more than the draft pick compensation they might receive for him after the season should he leave in free agency.
Of course, there are at least three flaws with this theory, which would make this purported approach by the Cubs incredibly risky.
First, to get compensation, Pena has to qualify at least as a Type B free agent, something that is some measure of doubt. At the last check (the Elias Bureau generates the rankings, which aren’t made public until after the season, so various folks try to estimate), Pena was likely to be just outside the Type B range. He might qualify with a good August and September, but it’s no sure thing. If he does qualify, the Cubs could get a supplemental first round pick for him if he departs.
Second, however, the Cubs would first have to offer arbitration to Pena. That means they’d have to chance him accepting (and he might – it’s not a multiyear deal, but he’d likely get $10+ million in arbitration), and not be able to aggressively pursue other free agents like Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.
Third, draft picks – while nice to have – cost money to sign. Players you receive in trade, however, have already been inked to a signing bonus, footed by someone else. It’s not usually more than $1 million or $2 million, but it matters.
I’m not sure we’ll ever know precisely the offers the Cubs received on Pena, but playing the draft pick compensation game on a guy like Pena is a risk the Cubs probably shouldn’t take. If they’ve got a bird in hand, leave those two in the bush.