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1/3/08 The Complicated History and Mystery of Wily Mo Pena?

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     It took me about ten minutes of searching to find out what baseball-reference.com meant in their "Transactions" section of Wily Mo Pena's stat page, when they wrote that Pena's contract was "voided" seven months after the Mets had signed the sixteen-year old amateur free agent out of Laguna Salada in the Dominican Republic on July 15, 1998.

     I took a quick look at thebaseballcube.com to double check the original signing date so that I could search out the reason for which the contract was voided, and quickly found myself only a bit more confused...

     thebaseballcube.com's profile of Wily Mo Pena has the sixteen year old originally signed by the New York Yankees, and if it isn't just a typo, signing with the Mets that same year and having the contract voided on the same dates as baseball-reference.com...signed 7/15/98, voided 2/28/99...

     GOOGLE?...takes me to...

http://forums.nyyfans.com/showthread.php?t=34224

     ...Where they have copied an article by Alan Schwarz of Baseball America and ESPN.com, in which Mr. Schwarz writes that:

          "The Yankees gave Pena his time bomb of a contract after
          he became one of the hotter international prospects in
          1999; the Mets had signed him the previous year, but the
          deal was later voided because Major League Baseball
          questioned the authenticity of his father's signature..."

     According to mlb.com's writer Maureen Mullen's article entitled, "Sox obtain Pena, send Arroyo to Reds", from 3/20/06 when the Boston Red Sox acquired Pena from Cincinnati in return for Bronson Arroyo:

            "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."

     I can't find any more information about the signature on Wily Mo Pena's first contract or the other contract with the Marlins anywhere, but the "time bomb" contract that Maureen Mullen and Alan Schwarz both refer to was a $3.7 million dollar Major League contract that Yankees GM Brian Cashman, then in his second year on the job in 1999, (the same year, according to wikipedia.org's Cashman profile, that Mr. Cashman was named, "to Crain's New York Business 40 under 40 list,")...signed Pena to, a contract that included, according Pena's wikipedia.org profile, a then-largest-ever $2.3 million dollar signing bonus.

     Wily Mo Pena? He just kept on hitting. From 1999-2001 in the Yankees' Minor League system, Pena, as a 17 to 19 year-old, hit 18 doubles, 4 triples, 17 HR's and collected 64 RBI's in his first 132 professional games. That didn't stop the Yankees from trading Pena to the Reds, (for Drew Henson and Michael Coleman) and the problem the Reds inherited from the Yankees, Mr. Schwarz writes, was that "...major-league rules gave him just four seasons in which he could be optioned to the minor leagues without being exposed to waivers..." because he had originally been signed to a Major League deal.

     Which meant that by the time the Reds had Pena play 126 games in their Minor League system and called him up three times over four years to play in just 203 games in Cincinnati, he had run out of options, so when they called Pena up for the third time in 2005, Pena was there to stay, or else the Reds risked exposing him to waivers in order to send him back down...

     So with 329 games of professional experience, Pena, at twenty-three, in 99 games for the Reds in '05, hit 17 doubles, 19 HR's with 51 RBI's, but his .254 AVG and 116 K's meant that Pena was sitting behind Reds' outfielder Austin Kearns, prompting mlb.com's Reds' writer Anthony Castrovince to write of surfacing trade rumors, in his article entitled, "...Notes: Pena subject of much talk" on 3/20/05:

          "Most rumors have him(Pena) going to the Nationals,
          where former Reds general manager Jim Bowden is calling
          the shots."

     It took Jim Bowden another two seasons, before the Nationals GM was able to acquire Wily Mo Pena, who had since been traded from the Reds to the Boston Red Sox for pitcher Bronson Arroyo. The Nationals acquired Pena in exchange for a player to be named later on 8/17/07.

     After hitting .293 with 8 HR's and 22 RBI's in 37 games in the last two months of the Nationals '07 season, Wily Mo Pena, at twenty-six as of January 13th, after 1,395 at bats in over 496 games in six MLB seasons over which he's hit a combined .259, with 61 doubles, 5 triples, and 75 HR's, with 215 RBI's and 472 K's overall, is expected to start in left field so that the Nationals can finally get a look at what Pena can do when given a full season to brutally swing away at National League pitching...

*Wily Mo Pena Stats*

Wily Mo Pena's career stats at baseball-reference.com:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/p/penawi01.shtml

Wily Mo Pena's career stats at thebaseballcube.com:

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/P/wily-mo-pena.shtml

Alan Schwarz's article, "Ready or not, Reds' Pena must stay in majors" from espn.go.com:

http://espn.go.com/mlb/columns/schwarz_alan/1433801.html

mlb.com's Maureen Mullen's article, "Sox obtain Pena, send Arroyo to Reds" from boston.redsox.mlb.com:

http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20060320&content_id=1356574&vkey=spt2006ne ws&fext=.jsp&c_id=bos

wikipedia.org's Brian Cashman profile:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brian_Cashman

wikipedia.org's Wily Mo Pena profile:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wily_Mo_Pena

mlb.com's Anthony Castrovince's article, "Notes: Pena subject of much talk" from cincinnati.reds.mlb.com:

http://cincinnati.reds.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20050320&content_id=972262&vkey=spt2005n ews&fext=.jsp&c_id=cin

AND...as an extra bonus for anyone who reads this far, here's a site that finds in Pena's shared Yankee and Red Sox history, comparisons with the most-ill-fated of all Yanks/Sox trades...

http://sluggerwily.com/latest/yankees-jinxed.html