Well this came out of nowhere. Just when we all thought the roster was more or less set, the Athletics announced this afternoon that they had acquired SS Jed Lowrie and RP Fernando Rodriguez from the now division rival Houston Astros, the price they paid for the two was 1B/DH Chris Carter, SP Brad Peacock, and C Max Stassi. At first glance, and prior to any in depth evaluation this seems like an awfully steep price to pay for a player of Lowrie’s caliber at a position not necessarily in need.
The logic behind the deal appears to be a safety net of sorts, similar I think to the logic behind the deal that brought in Chris Young back in October. The team appears to be set in pencil around the infield, save for the first base spot which seems all but locked up by Brandon Moss now with Carter out of the way. I did like the two headed monster last year, so I’m a little sad that we won’t get to see if that can succeed again, but then again I do have an irrational love for Brandon Moss.
Lowrie has been a lot about potential, if he can put it all together, if he can stay healthy (ankle problems), etc… but there’s no doubt he is a talented player and should be an asset to the Athletics in whatever role he’s cast in. In 2012 he played a career high 97 games and hit .244/.331/.438 with a career high 16 home runs. He plays primarily shortstop, where Hiroyuki Nakajima seems to be the man for the job at this point, so expect Lowrie to log some serious time at second and third base. That might be bad news for the many fans of Josh Donaldson in the 510 as his spot is far from guaranteed.
This trade is a sign of two things, the fact that Billy Beane and the A’s brass are really serious about winning in 2013, and that they don’t have as much faith in the existing infielders as one might think. Jemile Weeks and Scott Sizemore were expected to battle it out in Spring Training for playing time at 2nd base, as Bob Melvin told us just last weekend, but there really didn’t seem to be a challenger for Josh Donaldson at 3rd. Donaldson was horrifically inept early in the season, and after taking over for the injured Brandon Inge in August he seemed to figure it all out and was a major contributor to the A’s playoff run. The reality is though that Donaldson isn’t a 23 year old prospect just experiencing some growing pains in the Show, he is a 27 year old who had barely gotten a taste of major league ball prior to 2012. So the possibility that his hot month or so was a flash in the pan versus a sign of him finally figuring it all out is rather strong. Lowrie protects against that.
If Donaldson struggles, and Sizemore excels we may also see Lowrie move to 2nd and Sizemore take over the hot corner. The possibilities right now are very nearly endless.
In losing Chris Carter, the A’s finally gave up on him reaching his once lofty potential. He had hot streaks, and the ball truly does jump off his bat when he connects, but he would always revert to bad habits at the plate and chase bad pitches he would previously spit on. I think Houston will be a great place for him to hit, and he’ll get an opportunity without a doubt in Houston. The A’s had clearly soured on him down the stretch as he barely saw the field, and this trade verifies that notion.
Brad Peacock was thought to be one of the prizes of the Gio Gonzalez trade last year, but struggled mightily with his control and never got going in 2012, surely he’ll compete for a rotation spot with the Astros. Max Stassi was once thought to be the eventual successor to Kurt Suzuki behind the plate, but his bat never developed and injuries derailed his progress since he was drafted. He may have new life in the Astros organization now.
The A’s also received Fernando Rodriguez, a 28 year old right handed reliever who hasn’t exactly impressed at the big league level with an extremely high walk rate (4.8/9 innings for his career of 123.1 innings) and an ERA of 4.89. He’ll likely slide in right next to the likes of Jesse Chavez and Mike Ekstrom on the organizational depth chart.
Billy Beane told Susan Slusser that Nakajima will be the SS, an Lowrie will play all over the infield. That means exactly what I said earlier, Josh Donaldson, Scott Sizemore, and Jemile Weeks ought not get comfortable. The price they paid for Lowrie was a bit steep for my taste, but I fully understand the deal so I give it my stamp of approval. The A’s mean business in 2013 and baseball can’t come soon enough.