The Astros announced to reporters, including Chandler Rome of the Houston Chronicle, that shortstop Jeremy Pena has been reinstated from the injured list. Outfielder Chas McCormick was optioned to Triple-A in a corresponding move.
Pena landed on the IL due to some thumb discomfort but has returned fairly quickly, as no serious structural damage was found. That’s surely good news for the Astros, as the rookie is enjoying an excellent debut season. His .277/.333/.471 batting line amounts to a wRC+ of 132, or 32% better than the league average hitter. He’s also added excellent shortstop defense, producing 6 OAA and 6 DRS, although UZR is more bearish, placing him at -3.5. He’s already produced 2.4 wins above replacement on the season, according to FanGraphs. That’s the highest such mark among rookies this year, making him a serious contender for AL Rookie of the Year honors, though Julio Rodriguez is hot on his heels at 2.3 fWAR.
The news on McCormick is somewhat surprising, as he’s been close to an everyday player this year. After last year’s trade of Myles Straw and the injury to Jake Meyers, McCormick and Jose Siri became the team’s regular center fielders. McCormick has put up a line of .219/.291/.394 this year for a 98 wRC+, a slight drop from last year’s 109 but still around league average. Jose Siri, on the other hand, has a batting line of .185/.248/.315 for a wRC+ of 64. Meyers returned from his injury on Friday, with Siri being optioned to the minors. McCormick seemed safe as the bench outfielder, backing up Meyers, Kyle Tucker, Michael Brantley and Yordan Alvarez, who would regularly slot into the three outfield positions and designated hitter.
Perhaps the Astros preferred McCormick to get regular at-bats in the minors, as opposed to riding the pine in the majors. Whatever the reason, the club now has J.J. Matijevic, Mauricio Dubon and Aledmys Diaz as the outfield safety net. This move has potential service time implications for McCormick, as he entered the year with exactly one year of MLB service time. Had he stayed on the big league roster, he would have reached arbitration after the 2023 campaign and then free agency after 2026. If he spends a few weeks in the minors, he will be unable to get a full year of service time here in 2022, thus pushing his free agency back by a year. He could still qualify for arbitration after 2023 as a Super Two player, however, depending on how much time he spends on the farm.