TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tigers unconditionally released first baseman Carlos Pena on Sunday morning, closing the chapter on the former top prospect's mercurial four-year tenure in Detroit.
The 27-year-old Pena, acquired midway through the 2002 season in the Jeff Weaver trade that also brought Jeremy Bonderman to Detroit, lost his starting job last June. He was sent to Triple-A Toledo with a .181 batting average. Chris Shelton took his place and soon supplanted him as the first baseman of the present and future.
Pena's future might've been over at the end of the last season, but a mighty six-week stint salvaged his roster spot and gave the team hope it could get something in return for him. He batted .286 with 15 home runs and 30 RBIs in 38 games after his recall from Triple-A Toledo. He finished the year with a .235 average, 18 homers and 44 RBIs in 79 games.
Detroit tendered Pena a contract in December and avoided arbitration with a one-year, $2.8 million deal. Prior to that deal, the Tigers had tried to deal him throughout the offseason and that effort had continued this spring, but there had been little interest on the part of other teams.
Manager Jim Leyland had said he could keep Pena, Shelton and Dmitri Young all on his roster, using Young as a utility infielder and Pena as a left-handed bat off the bench. Even so, having both Pena and Shelton presented roster problems and wouldn't have allowed Leyland to keep more than one utility infielder.
By releasing Pena before Wednesday, the Tigers owe him 45 days' termination pay, equaling $688,525. Had they released him before March 15, they would have owed him 30 days' pay, or $500,000.