Brayan Pena has tweeted that his time in Detroit is over. While he filled the backup catcher role well and made memories of Gerald Laird quickly fade, he has been informed that he will not be returning to the Tigers for 2014.
Pena's only season in Detroit was his ninth in the big leagues. He set career highs in batting average (.297) and slugging percentage (.397). His receiving abilities were slightly above average, though his ability to throw out base runners not so much with only 13 of 55 caught stealing. The most significant concern going forward is that while Pena is a switch hitter, he does his damage from the left side. With Alex Avila also hitting right-handed pitching much better than left-handed, the apparent need is for a right-handed hitting backup catcher.
Bryan Holaday should be secure as Alex Avila's caddy for 2014. He hits right-handed to balance Avila's left-handed stick. His 22 games over the past two seasons have shown promise with a .282 batting average, .333 on-base percentage, and .410 slugging percentage. Holaday will turn 26 in November and has spent the past two seasons mostly in Toledo, with numbers typical for a big league backup. Perhaps most significantly Holaday is not eligible for arbitration while Pena is a free agent. This looks like a bet by Dave Dombrowski that while Pena could provide a slight edge in production, it would not be worth the extra millions in salary.
Pena was a forgotten man in the postseason. He only appeared in one game though he had a hit and drove in a run. But we will always remember his game-saving play to end a 2 to 1 victory over Seattle on April 17. He took the blow from Justin Smoak while blocking the plate, and though he could not get up for a while he shook the ball for the umpire and world to see. He always had a positive attitude, played the game the right way, and was good for a quote. We wish him well with his next team.