Jeremy Pena could upgrade the team as a trade chip for a win-now player who can fill another gap on the roster.
I opened by talking about Pena switching positions, so I might as well bookend it with the possibility of trading Pena if the Astros do re-sign Correa.
If Correa comes to Houston on a six-year deal, they could use Pena in a trade to acquire a solid center fielder or catcher with team control to fill the biggest holes on their roster.
Pena is currently in the running for rookie of the year though he most likely will be runner-up at best to Julio Rodriguez, barring an injury or sudden surge in production. He could fill a lot of teams’ holes at shortstop as a dependable fielder who can hit for power.
If the Astros re-sign Correa, Pena will become another prospect with MLB experience who could be packaged in a trade to get someone who is more of a certainty with what they will provide at the major league level.
As much as we want to believe we already won the free agency decision by not re-signing Correa and having a budding superstar in Pena, it’s still way too early to project that he can produce regularly throughout a season as a major league regular.
In baseball, it’s always good to go with consistency and someone with whom you have an idea of what they are as a major leaguer, as opposed to someone early in their career whose identity isn’t truly known over the long haul.
Years ago, Atlanta Braves fans were ecstatic over former player Jeff Francoeur when he first came up and tore the cover off the ball. It was short-lived and he never recreated that magic he had in his first big league season, becoming a merely serviceable major league player after that.
It takes at least three seasons to fully understand who a player is and what role they can provide for your team.
Again, with Correa, you know what you’re getting. The jury is still out on Pena.
It’s most likely not in the cards for Correa and the Astros to resume their relationship, but it shouldn’t be completely off the table either, considering the holes the Astros have at center field and catcher. Re-signing Correa means they could trade Pena for help in those two areas before the 2023 season.
Championship windows only remain open for so long. The Chicago Cubs only had a window of contention from 2015 to 2021, when they blew it all up to start over. The Nationals had an even faster downfall, going from World Series champions in 2019 to already being in full rebuild mode today after trading away the face of their franchise in Juan Soto.
If there is a choice between Pena and Correa, it only makes sense to take Correa. If the price is right and the Astros have the financial room to do so, they should go for it.