It was a true reflection, he said, of how excited he was to be back on the field as the Rays went through their first full-squad workout Wednesday. And also, a symbol of how he plans to carry himself through what could be his last season in what he calls "the best place on Earth to play baseball."
Peña is an educated and erudite man, and in his head, he knows he may be done with the Rays. He's making $10.125 million at the end of his three-season deal and realizes he may not fit in their future, payroll-reduced plans.
So he says it's his "desire" to stay, that it's "a no-brainer for me," that even though he is represented by typically hard-nosed agent Scott Boras, the decision ultimately will be his.
"I understand markets. I understand what I could be worth, I'm not blind to that," Peña said. "But I think it would be silly for me to ignore what this team means to me. It would be just absolutely silly. I would be lying to myself and everyone else if I just said I don't care. It's not true. Even though I consider myself an intelligent person, very well-educated about the business of baseball, I think it's going to be a balance."
If Pena is willing to bring his price down to a level where the Rays will be able to keep him, then he would be the antithesis of a Scott Boras client. As much as the Rays love Pena, I know that they cannot (and will not) overpay to keep him simply based on the team's economics alone. Can Pena and the Rays find some middle ground? Potentially. But it depends on two factors:
1. how much the Rays value Pena and consequently what they are willing to offer him
2. how much Pena less money Pena is willing to take to stay in Tampa versus what he could receive on the open market
Either way, this is certainly a situation worth monitoring even with free agency a mere nine months away.