Grading the Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics on Their Jed Lowrie Trade

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2013

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 18: Jed Lowrie #4 of the Houston Astros throws to first base against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium on September 18, 2012 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Houston Astros and Oakland Athletics have agreed on a five-player deal that finds infielder Jed Lowrie moving up the standings in the AL West:

#Athletics acquire Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez from the #Astros for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and minor leaguer Max Stassi.

— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) February 4, 2013

How does this impact Houston's rebuilding efforts, and what effect will this have on Oakland's attempts at defending its division crown?

Let's take a look.


Houston Astros

Of the three players heading to Houston, Chris Carter figures to make the biggest impact in 2013.

Carter, 26, immediately steps in as Houston's everyday left fielder. In limited playing time at first base for Oakland in 2012, Carter posted a .239/.350/.514 slash line with 16 home runs and 39 RBI.

He doesn't have speed, but his swing could result in some excellent power numbers at Minute Maid Park, especially against left-handed starters. As presently constituted, I see Carter hitting third in the Astros lineup, between Fernando Martinez and Carlos Pena.

Max Stassi, 21, is an excellent defensive catcher with some pop in his bat, shown by his 15 home runs in only 84 games for the High-A Stockton Ports in 2012. He's still a few years away from contributing, but he gives the Astros some options behind the plate down the line, especially if Jason Castro doesn't turn out as the team hopes he will.

The biggest piece of the deal, for me anyway, is that Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow was able to land Brad Peacock.

Peacock, a 25-year-old right-hander who was part of the package Oakland got from Washington for Gio Gonzalez, had his worst pro season in 2012, with his 6.01 ERA the second-worst in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.

Some, myself included, believe that was a result of Peacock putting too much pressure on himself to get to Oakland as he watched his rotation mates be called up around him.

He pitched up in the strike zone far too often and is far from a finished product, but the fourth-best prospect in Oakland's farm system, according to Baseball America, projects as a solid middle-of-the-rotation arm. For a Houston team in need of pitching, landing Peacock was an excellent move.

While Lowrie was a solid player for the Astros, the chance to acquire multiple pieces to aid in the rebuild was far more valuable than what he could offer at the plate and in the field this season.

Grade: B


Oakland A's

I like Jed Lowrie as a player and he's the kind of scrappy, workman-like guy I'd want on my team, but I'm not quite sure where Jed Lowrie fits in the scheme of things in Oakland.

The A's went out and signed Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima to a two-year, $6.5 million deal this winter and he's going to be the everyday shortstop, while Josh Donaldson seems to have a solid hold on third base.

That leaves second base, where Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore figure to battle it out for the starting spot in spring training. 

Lowrie hasn't spent much time at second base throughout his career, playing a career-high 209 innings at the position for the Boston Red Sox in 2010, posting a solid 7.0 UZR/150, according to FanGraphs.

If he's the starting second baseman, this deal makes more sense for the A's than if they are simply adding him as a utility player, a role that it's fair to wonder whether he'd be happy in after being a starter in 2012.

Fernando Rodriguez is a 28-year-old right-handed reliever who has struggled with his control and command throughout his career and is coming off of a terrible 2012 season.

In 70.1 innings of work spanning 71 relief appearances, Rodriguez posted a 5.37 ERA and 1.45 WHIP while throwing 10 wild pitches. He has the stuff to make batters miss with a career 9.9 K/9 rate, but the 4.8 BB/9 are a bit on the high side.

He figures to be an extra arm in spring training and provide depth in Triple-A, called upon only when Oakland has an injury in the major league bullpen. Any impact he makes with the A's would be minimal.

Really, grading this deal comes down to whether Lowrie is going to be Oakland's starting second baseman or not. If he's the starter, it's a solid upgrade over their in-house candidates and a solid trade to make.

If he's a utility player, the A's gave up quite a bit to land someone who isn't going to play on a daily basis.

Grade: C, but bumps up to a B if Lowrie is the starting second baseman.