As part of a "much-needed shakeup," the Houston Astros designated their first-ever full-time American League designated hitter and found a new starting shortstop, too. Following Sunday's 12-5 loss to the Seattle Mariners, Houston designated shortstop Ronny Cedeno and first baseman/designated hitter Carlos Pena for assignment.
In Cedeno's place, the Astros have called up shortstop Jonathan Villar for the first time. He will immediately be installed as the club's starter at a position that has been a weakness since Houston traded Jed Lowrie to Oakland. Villar is hitting .278/.342/.444 this season at Triple-A Oklahoma City with eight home runs and 31 stolen bases in 38 attempts.
Pena was signed to a one-year, $2.9 million contract at the beginning of the season. Houston is still on the hook for about $1.2 million on Pena's contract, unless a team claims him off waivers this week. There should be interest from the Yankees, who need another option at first base.
Pena hit .209/.324/.350 for Houston this season in 325 plate appearances. His numbers rose a little from his bad 2012 campaign, but they weren't good enough to avoid being the last man in the logjam at first base. Houston has a number of players vying for time at the position, including the recently-hot Brett Wallace, Chris Carter and Marc Krauss. In fact, Pena's DFA should free up more time for Krauss in the everyday lineup.
For Cedeno, it's the second time this season he's been placed on unconditional waivers. He was waived in spring training by the St. Louis Cardinals before being selected by the Houston Astros. He split time at shortstop with Marwin Gonzalez, but both found themselves out of a job by July.
What do you think? Will Villar be a spark for this moribund offense? Were you surprised to see Pena, a great clubhouse presence, cut mid-season?