Free agent first baseman Carlos Pena was Sirius XM's MLB Network Radio today, talking a lot about much playing for the Tampa Bay Rays meant to him but certainly sounding like someone looking for a new team, and one that, he said several times, will want him.
Some key excerpts from his interview with Jim Duquette and Kevin Kennedy, the former Rays TV analyst:
"There' s no secret how much Tampa Bay means to me, how much this team, I feel like I've grown. This team definitely feels like home to me. Obviously I just don't know that I would be in their plans. That's something that I can not control, per se. I think it's more on their end, kind of like the ball is in their court this time.
"I'm just kind of keeping my mind open to new possibilities and not totally just closing my mind on one possibility thinking that the only place where I could go is Tampa. I must be flexible in that sense and make sure that I do what's best for me.
"Tampa's, obviously, always going to be a special place … So very special in my heart obviously, however, I understand that sometimes (the future) may not be the way I want it to be, and I just must adjust. And I'm actually excited about the new possibilities out there for me.''
Despite coming off a season in which he hit .196, the lowest by a player with enough at-bats to qualify for a batting title (meaning he played regularly) since Rob Deer in 1991, Pena said he felt "very optimistic" about his future production: "With all my successes and struggles I feel that I am a better ballpalyer than I have ever been at this point."
And as for how he is handling free agency:
"Surprisingly, I am extremely calm about it, I know that there are teams out there that will be interested in my services. I can't stress how important it is for me to be in a place where I'm wanted and a place where they're going to be counting on me.''
Pena made $10.25-million last season while hitting a team-high 28 homers and knocking in 84 runs. The Cubs and Nationals are rumored to be interested.