Pena was originally acquired out of the Cubs organization, coming over in an Oct. 2017 trade that sent cash back to Chicago. The now-31-year-old righty was a solid swingman for the Halos from 2018-20, pitching to a 4.34 ERA with a 23.6 percent strikeout rate and a strong 7.7 percent walk rate through 215 2/3 innings. He stepped up for numerous spot starts or short stints in the rotation as needed over that three-year run, making 24 total starts in addition to 42 relief appearances. Angels fans will undoubtedly remember Pena best for his seven innings of no-hit relief that closed out a combined no-hitter the day after teammate Tyler Skaggs’ untimely passing.
The 2021 season hasn’t gone particularly well for Pena either in the big leagues or in Triple-A Salt Lake. He started the year on the injured list due to a hamstring injury that cost five months, and he was clobbered for seven runs in 1 2/3 innings across his first two outings upon returning. Pena never found his footing after being optioned to Triple-A to try to right the ship. Through 68 1/3 innings in Salt Lake this season, Pena was rocked for an 8.03 ERA. His 18.8 percent strikeout rate and 8.6 percent walk rate there were both worse than his Major League levels from 2018-20, and he yielded an average of 1.84 homers per nine frames.
The Halos passed Pena through waivers unclaimed in mid-May, so today’s move doesn’t open a 40-man roster spot. As a player with three-plus years of Major League service who’d been outrighted off the 40-man roster, Pena would have become a free agent at season’s end anyhow, so today’s move just gives him a bit of a head start on gauging interest from other teams. He’ll likely have to settle for a minor league contract in free agency, but Pena posted sharp results as recently as 2020, when he worked to a 4.05 ERA and struck out more than a quarter of his opponents against a seven percent walk rate. Rough 2021 season notwithstanding, he should garner some interest this winter.