"There was a broader fit they had in position players,
specifically outfielders. We had a lot of pitching.
They had a need for that. We had a need for an outfielder. Wily Mo Pena, the key for us in this deal, we think he makes sense now and for the future. He's obviously an extremely talented young player who's a work in progress."
If Arroyo had worked out of the bullpen this season, manager Terry Francona didn't think the team would have been able get the full potential from the pitcher.
"We have depth, and a lot of it," he said. "We might
not have been able to get enough out of [Arroyo]. That's not a knock on him. ... [Epstein] said a trade like this might go away if Bronson gets in a role where he's not pitching as much. Bronson was such a safety net, which is not bad, but would we have gotten the most out of him? Probably not."
Calling Pena's hitting potential "silly power," Francona said the deal was hard to pass up.
"In the short term and long term, it may work out
great," he said.
Pena signed as a 17-year-old free agent with the
Yankees in April 1999, after the Commissioner's office
ruled that both the Marlins and Mets had signed him
illegally. The Reds acquired him in a trade with the
Yankees in March 2001. Because he had signed a Major
League contract, he ran out of options in 2002 and had
to develop on the big-league level rather than in the
Minor Leagues. Between 2002-05, he played in just 428
games combined between the Majors and Minors.
Despite being in the Majors full-time since 2003, Pena, 24, has just 830 career at-bats, with 54 walks, 288 strikeouts and 51 home runs. A right-handed hitter with power, Pena has a career batting average of .248. In 2005, he hit .234 against right-handed pitching, .291 against lefties. Over the last three seasons against left-handed pitchers, Pena has hit .276 with 18 home runs and 45 RBIs in 250 at-bats.
"[Hitting against left-handed pitchers is] obviously a
niche that fits for this year's club," Epstein said.
"We think his development is still going on. He's a unique case. Because of his Major League contract, he was out of options by age 21.
"Young players who show that much power at that young
an age in the big leagues have pretty good projections in the future to become better all-around hitters. He's going to strike out a lot. He strikes out on a rate-basis more than anyone else in the big leagues. That's something we have to be patient with. But there's a lot of potential there. [He's] 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, and he's an above-average runner with a plus arm."
Epstein said Pena compares favorably to former Blue Jays star Jesse Barfield at the same age. In 1982, at the age of 23, Barfield hit .246 in 394 at-bats, with 18 home runs, 42 walks, 79 strikeouts and a .426 slugging percentage.
Last season, at the same age, Pena hit .254 in 311
at-bats, with 19 homers, 20 walks, 116 strikeouts and a .492 slugging percentage.
"I'm not saying he's going to be Jesse Barfield," Epstein said. "Obviously, there's some difference defensively, too. [But] as a rule, really young hitters in the big leagues who have that kind of power develop into better overall
hitters. They still strike out, but develop better walk rates, because as they advance and keep the power, pitchers tend to pitch to them more carefully."
Pena, who was slated for a full-time outfield role
with the Reds, is likely to platoon in right field
with Trot Nixon -- a free agent at the end of the
season -- and may also see time in center.
"That's a question really for our manager," Epstein said. "But we do certainly value what he's able to bring to the table against left-handed pitching."
"There are some scouts who think he's better in center
than in the corners," he added. "That's unusual for guys that size, but he's a physical freak, some of the things he
can do. [He's not] the type of athlete who comes around all the time. He hasn't had a normal development path. We know he's here to help us now and to continue his development to become the player he's going to be someday."
Pena, who is expected to arrive in Fort Myers on Tuesday,
said he was surprised by the trade.
"It was like when they traded me from the Yankees to
[the Reds]," Pena said. "It's another team. I'll have
to focus and be ready for anything.
"I wasn't thinking about [whether I would play the
outfield or DH]. I was thinking about [the Reds]. Now, I will look at [the Red Sox] and see what they have and what I have to do, and where I'm going to play, and everything."
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz played with Pena on
Team Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic, where Pena went 4-for-10 (.400), all singles, with one RBI and three strikeouts in three games.
"I can't believe my boy [Arroyo] is gone," Ortiz said.
"[But] I've never seen a guy hit a ball harder than that
guy [Pena]. ... No, not even [me]. He's 24 years old, he's just a baby. You know this game, it's a learning process."
Epstein addressed speculation that Arroyo had been
given a no-trade assurance, if not a written guarantee, when he re-signed with the team in January, for three years at $12.225 million, including a signing bonus of $750,000.
"That simply wasn't the case," Epstein said. "Jed
Hoyer was the one who finished the contract at the time for the Red Sox with Bronson. He told Bronson at the time that signing such a contract came with no guarantees about being
traded. The one thing that he assured Bronson of was
at the time there were no active trade discussions
"And that was certainly true, but that was several months ago, and things did change as teams inquired about Bronson this spring. But I can assure you all that there was no handshake, there was no gentlemen's agreement. And I think all our players understand that without an express no-trade clause that we can't give them any guarantee that they won't be traded at a certain point."
Arroyo could not be reached for comment.
With this trade, the Sox now have a starting rotation
of Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield, Josh Beckett, Matt
Clement and David Wells, with Jonathan Papelbon
likely to start the season in the bullpen. The only
other potential trade the Sox have on the table would
involve infielder Tony Graffanino -- a situation they
have been working on.
The club also signed former American League MLP Juan Gonzalez to a Minor League contract over the weekend.
"He's looking for the opportunity to play his way back
into the big leagues," Epstein said. "He's willing to
go to the Minors."