The Houston Astros optioned Chas McCormick to Triple-A Sugar Land on Monday, while activating Jeremy Peña from the 10-day injured list. Left-thumb discomfort kept the rookie shortstop out since June 13, before returning to the lineup Sunday.
Many believed J.J. Matijevic would be optioned for Peña — who was anticipated to return Sunday. The lefty’s heroic home run Saturday shouldn’t be the prime reason for why he kept a roster spot over McCormick, but his power and versatility do offer the Astros more flexibility.
Why did the Astros elect to option Chas McCormick over J.J. Matijevic?
The Astros optioned Jose Siri on Friday, after activating Jake Meyers. The decision was clear — although a strong defender, Siri’s offensive production didn’t neighbor that of McCormick. Siri ranked among the top in Defensive Runs Saved of center fielders with eight before his option, according to FanGraphs.
His production at the plate didn’t compete for the fourth outfield spot, but the Astros ended up not needing the same from McCormick. McCormick entered Sunday slashing .219/.291/.394 through 172 plate appearances.
McCormick started 42 of the 71 games rostered in the outfield, finding his most innings in center field. The lefty displayed 14 Defensive Runs Saved over the 2021 season, but his production in 2022 doesn’t mirror with -1 DRS.
The 27-year-old won’t be in Sugar Land right away, but it does mark his first option of his career, heading to the Minor Leagues for the first time since 2019.
While Matijevic’s primary position is first base, the right-hander can stretch to left field where he’s played 117 innings in Sugar Land compared to 191 at first base this season.
Beyond Matijevic, the Astros can extend Mauricio Dubon to center field, where the Astros believe he is most valuable, and now left field as well as Aledmys Diaz to left. These three provide suitable depth compared to McCormick who is limited to the outfield.
Matijevic’s left-handed bat also factors into the picture, as the other lefty off the bench in Jason Castro can’t hit his weight. With Yuli Gurriel struggling to find a groove, Matijevic offers a cushion with his power and defensive versatility.
The Space Cowboys currently roster three primary outfielders — Corey Julks, Pedro Leon and Lewis Brinson. As Dillon Thomas awaits an assignment, Marty Costes continues his rehab assignment in the Florida Complex League. The addition of McCormick and Siri offers just more experience to Mickey Storey’s lineup card.
McCormick last played Wednesday against the New York Mets in Minute Maid Park. With more consistent play in Sugar Land, the outfielder will continue to build a case to be a trade chip as he is valuable enough to start for other Major League clubs.