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How Lowrie Affects the A’s Infield
Posted By Josh Muller On Feb 6 2013 @ 4:05 pm In Oakland A's | 1 Comment
With my next post, my intent was to discuss the A’s outfield situation but in light of Monday’s trade I’m obviously going to focus on the infield.
On Monday the Oakland Athletics  acquired infielder Jed Lowrie and right-handed reliever Fernando Rodriguez from the Houston Astros  in exchange for first baseman Chris Carter and two prospects, right-handed pitcher Brad Peacock, and catcher Max Stassi.
Jed Lowrie is the best player in this deal and when the A’s were unable to resign Stephen Drew, Lowrie was one of my preferred alternatives. However, I like this trade but I don’t love it. It seems like a bit much to give up for Jed Lowrie and it isn’t a huge vote of confidence for the newly signed, Hiro Nakajima, who was slated as the A’s starting shortstop not three days ago.
The obvious rebuttal to those minor concerns is: Who cares? Brad Peacock may very well turn out to be a solid pitcher, but he’s going to be 26 this year and is probably eighth on the starting pitcher depth chart, so no big loss there. I had high hopes for Max Stassi but the facts are that he was an oft-injured catching prospect who never put up better than solid numbers. And if Nakajima wants to be a SS so badly, then he can damn well earn it.
The real guy to miss here is Chris Carter. I’ve been a Carter supporter for awhile mainly because of his ridiculous power and the (perhaps unwarranted) belief that power hitters are late bloomers. Last year he hit .239/.350/.514 with 16 homers in only 260 plate appearances. Of course, he also struck out 83 times but that’s just part of the gig. I actually think he’s poised for a breakout year, and could hit 40 homers with that short porch in Houston.
But despite my optimism, it is hard, even for me, to find Chris Carter the at-bats he’ll need in 2013. The plan was to platoon him with Brandon Moss at first base/DH. But with Seth Smith and newly acquired outfielder, Chris Young, also vying for time at the DH spot, those at bats were becoming hard to come by for Carter.
Basically, I like all the players the A’s traded away, but the likelihood of any of them contributing to the A’s immediate future was small enough to justify their departure as this is yet another clear sign of the A’s “win now” mentality.
Not to mention that it’s easier to replace power DH types than it is to get guys that can play every infield position. The A’s have been looking for answers at 3B and SS for years and Lowrie could fill either position or even second base if needed.
Lowrie is a versatile but unspectacular defender all over the infield and is a good hitter. He has good plate discipline sporting an above average walk rate of 11.1% last year while hitting 16 homers in only 387 plate appearances, which is impressive for a projected middle infielder.
The negative surrounding Lowrie is that he hasn’t hit triple digits in games played in any season thus far and will turn 29 on April 17th. If he plays 150 games or so, I’ll like this trade a lot more but the odds of that happening are not fantastic to say the least. However it does give the A’s a little insurance should Nakajima fail in his transition to the majors, or should Josh Donaldson’s second half last year prove to be a fluke, or should any of the remaining 2B candidates (Grant Green, Jemile Weeks, or Scott Sizemore) suck it up this spring. At least now the A’s have a proven commodity in the infield to go along with five or six other options which Manager Bob Melvin can rotate as he sees fit.
Another byproduct of this trade is the apparent confidence the A’s have in Brandon Moss. Moss was ridiculously awesome last year in limited playing time and has subsequently earned the right to the majority of at-bats at 1B coming into 2013. And with Carter now out of the picture, it would seem Moss owns the every day job. Now, do I think Moss will slug .596 again? No, I don’t. But I think we saw enough of him last year to believe that his numbers weren’t a total fluke. He’ll come back down to earth a bit but still I expect him to be a productive player and will probably bat cleanup to start the year. And again, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt.
Fernando Rodriguez was also sent to the A’s. He’s more of a throw in but he does have a live arm with a fastball in the low to mid nineties. He had an unimpressive 5.37 ERA last year, but did manage to strike out ten guys every nine innings. He’s got stuff, that’s for sure, which is enough for me. Billy Beane has a rather extensive history of being able to find good relievers so if this is a guy the A’s GM wanted, count me in.
I think there is little doubt the A’s got better on paper with this trade. But the game isn’t played on paper, as we all know. Oakland gave up some solid players for Lowrie, but no one with real star potential, and they get some stability for an otherwise wide-open infield in return. I think the value of this trade will come down to how much Lowrie plays. So everyone cross your fingers and hope he can stay healthy for an entire season… for the first time.
Note: All stats obtained form baseballreference.com
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