Now that the dust has had time to settle let’s take a closer look at the trade that sent Jed Lowrie and Fernando Rodriguez to Oakland in exchange for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, and Max Stassi. It looks like Jeff Luhnow may have worked his magic once again. This time he appears to have gotten the best of an experienced deal-maker in Mr. Moneyball, Billy Beane.
Let’s forget about the overall rosters for a minute and look strictly at the players involved in the trade. First, the primary components in the deal; Lowrie and Carter.
Lowrie is an experienced big leaguer but his track record of injuries has prevented him from reaching his full potential. He enters his age-29 season having never played in more than 97 big league games in a single campaign. Carter, entering his age-26 season, seemed to finally put it together at the major league level in 2012.
Lowrie struck out in only 16.8% of his 389 plate appearances last season. That number was slightly better than his career average. Carter, on the other hand struck out in 31.9 % of his 260 plate appearances, which is on par with his career totals in the bigs. Obviously Carter strikes out too often, but when he puts the ball in play his numbers are impressive. Lowrie’s 19.3% line drive rate and 11.3% HR/flyball rate (which was a career high) are right around the league average. Carter had a 20.3% line drive rate and a phenomenal 25.4% HR/flyball rate. When Carter hits the ball, he hits it hard and his power is undeniable.
Sure, Lowrie is a better defensive player, but I think Carter’s potential on offense far outweighs that of Lowrie. Neither player has done enough in his career to be considered a sure thing, but Carter is younger and I have to give a slight edge to the Astros here.
Fernando Rodriguez versus Brad Peacock: Rodriguez, 28, was a hot mess in Houston last year, going 2-10 with a 5.37 ERA. He struck out more than a hitter per inning but the rest of his numbers, including 4.35 BB/9 IP were a little scary. Peacock, who just turned 25, has long been considered a top prospect. Although he struggled a bit in the Pacific Coast League last season, he also managed to fan more than a batter per inning. So he brings the same specialty as F-Rod (the ability to miss bats), he’s younger, and he’s a starter. Once again, advantage Astros.
Max Stassi is a soon-to-be 22-year old catching prospect. Stassi won’t be able to make an immediate impact in Houston, but he gives the organization at least another warm body at a position that is otherwise thin. If he ever makes it to the big leagues (and I think he will) it will mean the Astros got the best of this trade, assuming Carter and Peacock don’t flop.
Now, what about the immediate impact each player will bring for his team?
Lowrie is expected to get a full season’s worth of at-bats while playing multiple positions in the A’s infield. Beane is hoping that Lowrie will have a better chance at staying healthy if he doesn’t have to play the demanding position of shortstop on an everyday basis. Lowrie is a fly ball hitter (over 50% for his career). Playing half his games in Oakland might not be such a good fit for Jed and I would expect to see his batting average dip below his career mark of .250.
Barring some sort of stunning development, Rodriguez figures to have little impact for the A’s in 2013. Oakland’s 2.94 bullpen ERA was the second best in the A.L. last season and F-Rod will have a hard time making the team as anything other than a mop-up man. Beane could view Rodriguez as somewhat of an insurance policy in case one of his young relievers regresses or gets hurt.
On An Astros team that is desperate for power, Chris Carter figures to see plenty of action. He provides a potentially big bat from the right side on a team that is predominantly left-handed. The big man will be thrown into the middle of the lineup in hopes that he can provide some much needed punch. Carter’s primary position is first base, but he also has some experience in leftfield. Look for Carter to be a regular in left. He should also see some time at DH as well as first base.
The Astros view Peacock as a guy with the potential to be a #2 or #3 starter at some point in the future. There will be plenty of rotation candidates arriving in Kissimmee next week, so Peacock has his work cut out for him. If he breaks camp with the team, it will probably be as a member of the bullpen. There are simply more jobs available there and the Astros may want to work him in slowly. I do, however, expect him to crack the rotation at some point during the season, probably when Bud Norris is traded.
Will any of the players involved in this deal be missed by their former team? Without Lowrie the Astros look a little weak at the shortstop position. Jeff Luhnow and Bo Porter say they are confident in their other in-house options at short, but Lowrie seemed to be a better bet. Oakland, on the other hand, is less likely to miss Carter and Peacock. They have an abundance of outfielders and Brandon Moss, who had a breakout year in 2012 will be plugged in at first base. The A’s rotation is filled with up-and-coming youngsters, so Peacock was also deemed expendable.
That doesn’t mean the two newest Astros won’t come back to haunt their former team. Playing in the same division means Carter and Peacock will get plenty of chances to show the A’s what they are missing out on. Both Carter and Peacock have tremendous potential. But, neither is a sure thing. How they fare will ultimately determine who got the best of this trade.