When spring training started, the Astros seemed to be going with a platoon of Tyler Greene and Marwin Gonzalez. Things changed on March 19th when the Cardinals announced that they released Ronny Cedeno. Five days later the Astros went ahead and signed Cedeno to a 1-year deal. Cedeno was expected to be the starter for the Astros this season, though things have changed in the last few weeks.
Let’s take a look at Ronny Cedeno‘s career up to date. Cedeno was a former top prospect for the Chicago Cubs, and made his debut in 2005. He hit .300 in 80 at-bats for the Cubs and that would be his highest batting average in a single season. He would end up hitting just .252 over four seasons and 900+ at-bats for the Cubs. Cedeno’s defense did not help him out either, amassing 23 errors in 134 games at shortstop in 2006, good for a bottom five finish. Cedeno would then move on for a season with the Seattle Mariners, playing at four different positions over 59 games. The Mariners let him go after he hit just .157, and he joined the Pittsburgh Pirates for the next three seasons. His defense got better, and he showed a very slight improvement in power, but it was not enough to keep him in Pittsburgh for the 2012 season. The Mets would then pick him up and he hit .259 with a .741 OPS in New York. After deciding Cedeno was not worth a spot in 2013, the Mets did not resign him, and the Cardinals scooped him up for the 2013 season.
The Cardinals signed Cedeno to a 1 year, $1.15 million deal for 2013. Cedeno was brought in to compete with Pete Kozma at shortstop, to replace Rafael Furcal. After 16 spring training games where he hit .290 with a .791 OPS, the Cardinals decided not only was he not going to start for them, but they did not think he was even worth a roster spot, and they cut him. The Astros signed Cedeno just five days later, and he has hit .273 (6/22) with two errors in just eight regular season games.
So what did Jeff Luhnow see in Ronny Cedeno? Did he think Cedeno could be a stopgap at shortstop, while we wait for Jonathan Villar in OKC? That’s possible, however, I don’t believe it was necessary. Last year, the Astros had Jed Lowrie and Marwin Gonzalez at shortstop. Lowrie had a real good year until an injury cut his season short. When Lowrie went down, the Astros brought Tyler Greene to platoon with Gonzalez. When Lowrie was traded, we all believed we would head into the season with that same platoon, but Greene was let go after they brought in Cedeno. It was an interesting move as Greene and Cedeno have similar career numbers. Both players’ OPS’s are around the .650 area (terrible), and both get a hit less than 1/4 of their at bats. Cedeno is regarded as a better defender, though Greene offers versatility (he has played at least one inning at every position other than catcher). Greene has more power, and is a better base stealer than Cedeno. The move was questionable, and it looks like it didn’t pay off.
So why did Luhnow feel that Cedeno would be an upgrade over Greene? I can’t really answer that. Personally, I would rather have Greene as I liked his power better, and didn’t care for the difference in defense. Now with Greene gone, Cedeno hasn’t done much to please fans in Houston. His presence is not wanted by many (ok, I’ll admit I may be the biggest Cedeno hater out there, but still…), and all he is currently doing is taking time away from Marwin Gonzalez. Gonzalez has hit .333 (8/24) so far this year, and has even shown a little pop with his two home runs. With that being said, what should the Astros do with Cedeno?
Ronny Cedeno’s career could be over. He has a career 0.4 WAR which actually surprises me. I don’t see how any team sees value in a career .247/.290/.357 player with inconsistent defense. Jeff Luhnow was probably hoping for a strong few months from him, in hopes of shipping him away for some decent prospect. That is the only logical explanation I can think of, as I don’t see any other reason to bring in a 30-year old shortstop with those dreadful numbers. The Astros should cut him now, and put him in a place where he belongs, the waiver wire. Cedeno is nothing more than a weak utility player either at the MLB level, or at the Triple-A level. He doesn’t do anything well, and is a waste of a spot on the Astros. By cutting Cedeno, the Astros would let Marwin Gonzalez start at shortstop, and see if he can continue his hot start. With Gonzalez as the starter, the Astros would then look to add another utility player that likely can play shortstop.
Who should take Cedeno’s spot?
A. Jake Elmore - If the Astros cut Cedeno, they will likely need someone that can play shortstop to be called up. Elmore has played shortstop in the majors, and can play the utility role that the Astros thought Gonzalez would be in. Elmore has played well at OKC so far this season (.465 BA with a 1.141 OPS in 43 at-bats), and the Astros would be smart to replace Cedeno with Elmore.
B. Brandon Laird - Laird has also shared similar success to Elmore in OKC (.349 BA with a .966 OPS in 43 at-bats). Laird hasn’t played shortstop in his career, so the only way they choose Laird is if they are ok with Brett Wallace being the backup shortstop. Wallace is regarded as a negative defender at shortstop, and it’s not like his bat has any value in the lineup at this time. One might think that Matt Dominguez can backup the shortstop position, but he has yet to make any appearance at shortstop in his career.
C. Jonathan Villar – Villar is expected to be on the Astros sometime this year, but it likely won’t be any time soon. He has hit just .111 this year, and his defense has been sub-par (four errors). Villar needs more time in the minors, and it’s likely we won’t see him until sometime after the trade deadline.
D. Jimmy Paredes - Paredes has been shifted throughout the infield and outfield many times in his career. The Yankees played shortstop a bit in the minors, but when he was acquired by the Astros, they decided to not use him at shortstop. At this point it’s probably better to just keep him in the outfield, and let him try his luck there.
If I were the GM of the Astros, I would have cut Cedeno days ago, and called up Jake Elmore. Let Elmore play the utility role for the next few months, while Marwin Gonzalez starts at shortstop. If Villar steps it up over the next month, and Elmore struggles, it’s possible Villar can be called up. It’s also possible the Astros look outside the organization for a utility type of shortstop, but many people would probably prefer to give Elmore a chance for a few months, and see if he can prove to be a quality player.