Jed Lowrie has reportedly been a target for the Oakland Athletics dating back as early as September, though there have been no indications that a deal was ever close between the team and the Houston Astros. Late Monday afternoon that all changed, as the A’s and Astros announced a five player trade that will ship Lowrie and right-hander Francisco Rodriguez to Oakland. Houston will receive three players in return – first baseman/outfielder Chris Carter, right-hander Brad Peacock, and catcher Max Stassi.
Lowrie first joined the Houston organization a little over a year ago in a trade with the Boston Red Sox, along with right-hander Kyle Weiland, in exchange for right-hander Mark Melancon. He appeared in 97 games for the Astros this past season, batting .244/.331/.438 with 16 HR in 387 plate appearances. The power production was somewhat unexpected from the 6’0”, 180 pound infielder but it proved to be a welcomed addition to an Astros team largely devoid of power in the lineup. Lowrie was hampered by a sprained thumb and an ankle injury, but the 2012 season still represented career highs for him in playing time. Houston thought highly of the 28 year old and Astros GM Jeff Luhnow repeatedly stated this offseason that he wasn’t looking to move him, but would listen if an “overwhelming offer” were presented.
Lowrie, who’ll turn 29 in mid-April, is slated to earn $2.4 Million this season after agreeing to a deal with the Astros to avoid arbitration. He’ll be a free agent after the 2014 season. By shedding Lowrie’s salary the Astros now have less than $15 Million in guaranteed contracts heading into the upcoming season.
Rodriguez has spent the past two seasons working out of the Houston bullpen, appearing in 118 games since the start of the 2011 season. He’s a combined 4-13 in that span with a 4.77 ERA, 1.492 WHIP, 9.9 K/9, and 4.7 BB/9. He’s not yet arbitration eligible but doesn’t project to be a part of the A’s bullpen when the season begins.
Oakland will reportedly head into the season with Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima as their starting shortstop, but Lowrie is expected to see ample playing time across all four infield positions. His defensive versatility was certainly a factor in the deal and given the uncertainties facing the Oakland infield he may prove to be a quality addition to the roster. If nothing else, his value in the field will allow the A’s to more effectively construct their overall 25-man roster at the end of Spring Training.
Heading the other way in this deal, Houston acquires three players with some varying degrees of promise.
Carter is the most seasoned of the group, having seen time with the A’s over the past three seasons. This past year he appeared in 67 games, batting .239/.350/.514 with 16 HR over 260 plate appearances. He struck out, however, 83 times on the season or 31.92% of his plate appearances – a staggeringly high rate that is causing many to question his potential value in the deal. The 26 year old has posted some strong numbers in his minor league career, but his strikeout tendencies and poor plate discipline have long been a concern. With some consistent at bats he could still turn into a nice addition to the Astros lineup and should see opportunities for playing time at first base, designated hitter, and in left field.
Stassi was highly regarded when the A’s selected him in the 4th Round of the 2009 Draft, but the 21 year old has yet to show much at the plate in his minor league career thanks to a series of shoulder problems. Over four seasons he’s just a .246/.322/.403 hitter over 1,019 plate appearances. This past season was his second at High-A and he hit .268/.331/.468 with 15 HR in 84 games.
Peacock could end up being the prize of the deal in the long run. The 25 year old made a pair of starts for the Washington Nationals at the tail end of the 2011 season, going 2-0 with a 0.75 ERA over 12.0 innings of work. He was also the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year that season, posting a 15-3 record with a 2.39 ERA and 0.989 WHIP over 146.2 innings of work. Despite being thought highly of within the Nationals organization, Peacock was part of the package (along with Tommy Milone, Derek Norris, and A.J. Cole) that the team surrendered in January 2012 to acquire Gio Gonzalez from the A’s.
2012 was not kind to Peacock in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League. He made 28 appearances for Oakland’s Triple-A affiliate, including 25 starts, and pitched 134.2 innings. He went 12-9 on the year with a 6.01 ERA, 1.582 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, and 4.4 BB/9. Despite the struggles, Baseball America still ranked Peacock as the #4 prospect in the A’s organization in their latest rankings. If he can get back on track he still could develop into a middle of the rotation starter. Given the starting depth in Oakland, the trade benefits Peacock in his quest to become an MLB regular.
On its surface, the Astros appear to have come out on top in the deal thanks largely to the potential Peacock and Carter still hold. Their respective development could be a big part of Houston’s continued rebuilding process. Lowrie may have the most immediate impact of all of the players involved in the trade, but his spotting injury history has to bring some degree of concern to the discussion. Oakland is counting on him staying healthy over the course of the upcoming season in order to get the most value from the deal.