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2015 in Review: Nice Guys Finish Last (If They Play for the Reds)

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Brayan Peña followed up an endearing 2014 with a superior 2015.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Brayan Peña is probably the nicest guy on the Reds.  He's probably the nicest guy in MLB.  Actually, he is almost certainly like the nicest person on planet Earth.  He has tons of fun with fans on Twitter while being funny and self-effacing at the same time.  Even though he's better at Twitter than you, he would never rub it in your face.  He is constantly smiling, constantly encouraging towards teammates, constantly having fun living the MLB life, words can't describe how proud he is to be an American, he's "universally respected," he adopts puppies and hands out lollipops to under-privileged children...read about all most of that in this heart-warming take by Mark Sheldon.  He takes more pride than anything in being an "unbelievable teammate."  He has no less an admiring personage than Chris Heisey: "no matter how well he's played in a certain game or stretch, he genuinely cares about how his teammates are doing. If we win the game, he could have the worst game of his career, and he would be happy."  Chris Heisey said that.

"I think [being a good teammate is] more important than anything," Pena said. "Homers, base hits, strikeouts and all of that stuff are part of the game. But you being a great teammate, you being a good human being, that's something that you can control, 100 percent.

"If I feel like I'm doing the right thing and being the best human being possible, I can live with that. I can go home and look my children in the eyes and say, 'Your daddy is making you guys proud, and tomorrow, I want you guys to do the same.'

Read that quote from Brayan Peña.  Let it change your life.  How he performs on the field is just an afterthought - a mere footnote - in the story of what Brayan Peña meant to the Reds (or the world) in 2015.  You want to talk about how he played baseball?  After that?  OK, let's talk about how he played baseball.

Reviewing 2015

Each of the last two years, Peña was pressed into more action than expected due to injuries.  In 2014, he had to pick up a big chunk of time filling in at 1B for Joey Votto, and of course in 2015, he became the primary catcher due to Devin Mesoraco's hip injury.  He ended up getting almost exactly the same amount of playing time in both seasons, and performed better in 2015 at just about everything.  He deserved it.  He increased his walks, decreased his strikeouts, and drove his OBP up to a very healthy .334 (second best on the team, by the way), all of which led to a more productive season at the plate, even though his power fell off a cliff (or rolled off the side of the anthill, to pick a somewhat more appropriate metaphor - I don't think NERTS will mind the good-humored jab).  And since he was able to play his natural position, his defense rated better, and he even improved his baserunning.  The final tally had Peña just ahead of replacement level according to the stats, but, no way.  He couldn't be replaced in the clubhouse.  Also, StatCorner and Baseball Prospectus both had him as one of the worst pitch framers in MLB last year.  But for real, with a rotation that probably set MLB records for rookie starters and had more than its share of just plain bad pitchers, how are you going to lay all the blame on Peña?  For real.

Brayan Peña has been one of the more fortuitous free agent signings Walt Jocketty has made in his Reds tenure.  He cost barely over $2 million for two seasons, played adequately, is a fan favorite, and is beloved by his teammates, without exaggeration.

Peña's contract is up, and he is a FA for 2016.  The Reds are in an interesting predicament with the uncertainty about whether Mesoraco will be able to catch next year (or ever again), and Tucker Barnhart is probably not anyone's idea of a primary catcher.  Granted, this is a team that had Paul Bako as a primary catcher once upon a time (and let David Ross go free for the privilege), so never say never.  The Reds will probably look to sign a catcher this offseason, and they already know what they have in Brayan Peña.  However, it seems that we would have heard something on this front if the Reds had been looking into re-signing him, but it has been eerily quiet.  On the other hand, Peña will be 35 next year, the FA class has numerous names who fit better as a primary catcher, and the Reds may feel better going that route considering Mesoraco's situation.  If it is time for Peña to move on, we should all wish him the best (probably while choking back a few tears).

Chance of making 2016 Reds roster: 15%