Pena is close to signing a two-year deal with the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Japan that would give him a seven-figure annual salary, according to WEEI.com.
The deal is reportedly expected to give Pena a significant role with the reigning Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) champions, and would allow the 29-year-old to once again hit the open market when he’s 31. Pena is reportedly hoping that regular playing time in Japan will help him improve his approach at the plate.
The former Red Sox outfielder has earned a reputation as a guy who can launch tape-measure blasts if and when he’s able to make contact, but he’s always struggled with plate discipline and the ability to handle offspeed pitches.
WEEI.com’s Alex Speier points out that Japan will be a good test for Pena, as pitchers in the NPB generally feature a heavy dose of breaking balls.
Pena feasted on Triple-A pitching last season, hitting .358 with 25 home runs in 76 games for Reno and Tacoma of the Pacific Coast League. At the major league level, though, Pena struggled, hitting only .204 with a .250 on-base percentage in 120 plate appearances with the Diamondbacks and Mariners.
The Red Sox acquired Pena from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitcher Bronson Arroyo prior to the 2006 season, and was then traded to the Nationals by the club in 2007.