LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Cubs have reached a preliminary agreement with free agent first baseman Carlos Pena on a one-year deal with about $10 million, according to sources, and hope to finalize the deal this morning during a schedule meeting with his agent, Scott Boras.
The pending deal fills the Cubs' top off-season need and leaves a back-rotation starting pitcher and right-hander reliever on their to-do list.
Pena, 32, is a career .241 hitter who led the American League with 39 home runs in 2009 for the Tampa Bay Rays, but his batting average, on-base percentage and power numbers - with the exception of the '09 spike - have declined each of the past three seasons.
One Tampa Bay source said his highly reputed fielding skills also declined by the end of last season. But the Cubs' reports on Pena say he's still fielding at the level that earned him a 2008 Gold Glove and that he still has strong power production to match a strong clubhouse presence.
Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo, who had Pena in Texas as a rookie in 2001, was one of Pena's supporters in the Cubs' pursuit.
With so much of their limited payroll flexibility now tied to one addition, the Cubs are expected to look harder at harder at trades than the free-agent market to fill the pitching needs - unless they can move a significant portion of a larger contract, such as the $13.5 million left on the final year of outfielder Kosuke Fukudome's contract.
Sources say the Cubs are still pursuing former Cy Young winner Brandon Webb, but the free agent, who hasn't pitched since the 2009 season opener because of shoulder injuries, won't command a high price.
Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who said before meeting with Boras late Tuesday night that he anticipated adding a player before the winter meetings conclude Thursday, also said he expected whatever move the Cubs made first to impact how they would go about filling the rest of their openings.
What small chance the Cubs had of pulling off a rumored multiplayer deal with Texas for first-baseman Chris Davis and reliever Darren O'Day are eliminated, for instance.