This morning ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that several teams have expressed an interest in acquiring Astros SS Jed Lowrie. Jeff Luhnow has stated that he will not be “shopping” any of his players this offseason, but will listen to offers. Apparently he been listening a lot when it comes to Lowrie. The switch-hitting Lowrie figures to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million this season after arbitration. That’s a bargain, not only for the Astros but for any team looking for a shortstop.
The Free Agent SS market is pretty thin this winter. Marco Scutaro figures to be the most sought after Free Agent middle infielder on the market. After being dealt from Colorado to the Giants last summer Scutaro put together a solid second half and an outstanding post-season. A significant raise could be in Scutaro’s immediate future.
Stephen Drew and Alex Gonzalez make up the next tier of available shortstops, and both raise injury concerns. Drew hit only .223/.309/.348 in 79 games last season after missing eleven months with a serious ankle injury. Gonzalez missed most of 2012 after tearing his ACL in May. Of course, Lowrie has had injury concerns of his own but is probably ahead of these two guys on the most wanted list of shortstops.
But would the Astros seriously consider dealing Lowrie? Jed was arguably the team’s most productive hitter before suffering a leg injury last June. At the time of the injury Lowrie was the Astros homerun leader and carried a .456 slugging percentage. Lowrie was also a pleasant surprise defensively at a demanding position on the diamond. The answer to the question is… yes, the Astros would trade Lowrie if the price was right. That price would likely be a couple of youngsters including at least a “B-level” pitching prospect. I guess it just depends on your point of view. Some people say there is no such thing as a pitching prospect.
Luhnow has said that he would have to be blown away by an offer in order to part with Lowrie. I think I’m in the same boat. If he can stay healthy Lowrie should be a key contributor on offense and defense, and at $2 million for 2013 and an additional year under team control the price is right.
On the other hand, the Astros do have other options at shortstop. Tyler Greene showed some promise after joining the team late last season. His strikeout rate was high (28.8%) and his defense was questionable but the 11 homeruns and 12 stolen bases suggest that some tools are there. The recently acquired Jake Elmore is another possibility. Claimed off waivers from Arizona last month, Elmore had a breakout season at AAA Reno in 2012. His career 273/266 BB/K rate in 524 minor league games is the kind of stat that jumps off the page at you. Elmore may be better suited for 2B but played 60 games at SS last season.
Then there’s Marwin Gonzalez. Last year’s Rule 5 draftee proved he can play defense but he was inconsistent at the plate. Gonxalez now has minor league options and could be headed to AAA if Lowrie isn’t traded.
Olney didn’t identify any of the “several teams” in his tweet. All we know is that there is interest in Lowrie. But we have no way of knowing what teams might be offering. I wouldn’t expect anything to happen before next month’s Winter Meetings in Nashville. That’s when the hot stove will heat up considerably.