The Tigers brought back veteran catcher Brayan Pena, signing him to a minor league deal with an invitation to spring training. Pena, 36, has been in the majors since 2005.
Pena spent 2013 with the Tigers and enjoyed one of the most productive seasons of his career. Across 229 at-bats, He hit .297 with four home runs and a career-high 94 wRC+.
2017 was the first year since 2005 that Pena did not play in the major leagues. He spent the year in Triple-A with the Kansas City Royals, where he hit .274 in just 134 plate appearances.
All told he has accrued 1,950 plate appearances in the show, slashing .259/.299/.351.
His experience as a back up catcher and strong reputation as a mentor help make a strong case for him to start next season on the opening day roster.
However, Hicks played well last season, is considerably younger, and is under team-control through 2022.
Pena will get a chance to prove he is still capable of being a reliable back up catcher this spring. If he does not make the team, he will be a valuable veteran depth piece in Triple-A. He should get a chance in the case of an injury. With Hicks capable of filling in at first base, Pena could get the call should Miguel Cabrera or Victor Martinez go down.
Regardless, don’t be surprised to see Pena back in the Motor City sometime during the next season.