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Pena agrees to deal with Rays; Cubs to give LaHair chance at first

Chicago Cubs' Carlos Pentosses his bafter being called out strikes during second inning baseball game against Cincinnati Reds Sunday May

Chicago Cubs' Carlos Pena tosses his bat after being called out on strikes during the second inning of a baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Sunday, May 8, 2011, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

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Updated: February 22, 2012 8:05AM

The Cubs are set to give Bryan LaHair a chance to be their next first baseman. Meanwhile, Carlos Pena moved back to his former team.

Pena agreed to terms on a one-year, $7.25 million deal Friday with the Tampa Bay Rays, pending a physical. The salary is less than the $10 million Pena made in his one season with the Cubs.

Pena, 33, hit .225 with 28 home runs and 80 RBI for the Cubs. That was similar to his season with the Rays in 2010, when he had 28
homers and 84 RBI but hit .196.

Pena also drew interest from the Cleveland Indians and New York Yankees but chose to return to the team where he had his best success and where he was a popular player. He played four seasons with the Rays (2007-10) and was a member of two playoff teams (2008, when he won a Gold Glove and was voted American League comeback player of the year, and 2010). His best
offensive season came in 2008, when he hit .282 with 46 homers and 121 RBI.

President Theo Epstein has said the Cubs will give LaHair a chance at first after he had his best minor-league season before being called up late in 2011. LaHair, 28, hit .288 with two homers and six RBI in 20 games for the Cubs after hitting a record 38 homers at Class AAA Iowa, where he was named Pacific Coast League player of the year.

‘‘I don’t believe in 4A players,’’
Epstein said in a conference call with season-ticket holders in December, referring to the term given to players who excel in the minors but not in the majors. ‘‘Guys who can hit will hit when they’re given a chance. He [LaHair] continued to rake in winter ball [in Venezuela].’’

But newly acquired Anthony Rizzo, whom Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer drafted when they were with the Boston Red Sox in 2007, has been pegged as the Cubs’ first baseman of the future. The Cubs sent pitcher Andrew Cashner and minor-league outfielder Kyung Min-Na to the San Diego Padres three weeks ago to get Rizzo, whom Hoyer had acquired from the Red Sox in December 2010, when he was the Padres’ general manager.

Off the field, the Cubs continue to modify internal operations with an eye toward belt-tightening in
areas besides team payroll, including reducing the daily meal allowance for scouts from $50 to $30.

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