Struggling to take any meaningful steps forward on the field and in the standings, the Houston Astros started to take some steps towards revamping their roster late this afternoon following a 12-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners that dropped them to 33-64 on the year. Carlos Pena and Ronny Cedeno were both designated for assignment by the team, according to Brian T. Smith of The Houston Chronicle. Jonathan Villar has been called up from Triple-A and will reportedly assume the team’s starting shortstop role.
The decision to replace both Pena and Cedeno were inevitable given the lack of production that each has been able to show at the plate on the year. They’d each signed one year deals with the team prior to the season and didn’t figure into Houston’s long term plans.
Pena has struggled to a .209/.324/.350 line in 325 PA, with just 8 HR on the year. He’s hit under .240 in each of the past five seasons, but has generated enough power to justify keeping him in the lineup. This year that too has been absent. It’s tough to gauge what kind of interest the 35 year old might attract, though it’s almost certain that he won’t be claimed on waivers due to his $2.9 Million salary this season. His playing time at first base will likely be split between Brett Wallace and Chris Carter for the remainder of the year, barring a surprise decision on the team’s part to call up Jonathan Singleton in September.
Cedeno, meanwhile, has hit just .220/.260/.298 in 155 PA. He’s never been much of an offensive threat, with most of his value coming on defense, but even there he brings little to the table for an Astros team building for their future. Replacing him with Villar is an easy call, as this gives them the remainder of the year to see just what Villar can offer. The 22 year old has hit .278/.342/.444 in 385 PA for Triple-A Oklahoma City. It’s his sixth season in the minors and first at the level, but he’s never posted higher offensive numbers.
Houston’s future remains bright, simply given the talent within the team’s minor league system, and it seems as good a time as any for the organization to start evaluating some of these players at the Major League level over the remainder of the year. Villar will likely not be the team’s last callup in the coming weeks.