Houston obtains power-hitting Carter, two top prospects for Lowrie, Rodriguez
By Brian McTaggart
HOUSTON -- Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow pulled off yet another trade Monday, sending shortstop Jed Lowrie to the American League West division rival Oakland A's in exchange for three young players in a five-player deal to bolster Houston's rebuilding process.
In exchange for Lowrie and relief pitcher Fernando Rodriguez, the Astros acquired power-hitting first baseman Chris Carter, right-handed starting pitcher Brad Peacock and Minor League catcher Max Stassi. Carter and Peacock have been added to the 40-man roster, and Stassi will be in Spring Training as a non-roster invitee.
It's the latest in a long list of trades executed by Luhnow in the last 14 months in which he's dealt an established Major Leaguer in exchange for young players as the club continues to rebuild.
Prospects acquired by Astros
Brad Peacock, RHP: Peacock was ranked No. 5 on the A's Top 20 at the time of the trade. A 41st-round draft-and-follow of the Nationals back in 2006, he was stagnating a bit in A ball until 2011 when the right-hander excelled at two Minor League levels and made his big league debut, earning an invite to the Futures Game as well as being named the Eastern League Pitcher of the Year. He was then part of the prospect package Washington sent to Oakland in the Gio Gonzalez trade, and he couldn't replicate his success in 2012. He still has a good three-pitch mix, and when he can keep the ball down in the zone, he can be an effective starter at the highest level.
Max Stassi, C: Stassi was No. 11 on the A's Top 20. The A's went way over slot to sign Stassi after he was a fourth-round pick in the 2009 Draft, and while he's shown glimpses of why the investment was worth it, he's had trouble staying healthy. A shoulder injury had limited him during his senior year in high school; that shoulder required surgery in 2011 and limited him to 31 games. In 2012, he missed time due to ankle and oblique injuries. He's not the kind of big and physical backstop some like to see, but he has some catch-and-throw skills, with an average arm and good feet and hands. He has some gap power, which started showing up a bit more in 2012, but the lack of time on the field has hampered his ability to develop his bat. He'll spend the 2013 season at age 22, so there's time for him to develop as an all-around catcher, but health is the key.
"I feel like we helped ourselves in the short term by adding the power we desperately need from the right side and also gave ourselves some long-term benefit in this deal," Luhnow said. "For us, it accomplished a lot of objectives."
Lowrie was the first player Luhnow acquired as a GM, getting him from Boston in December 2011. He played one year in Houston and hit .244 with 16 homers and 42 RBIs and was limited to only 97 games because of a sprained right thumb suffered last spring and an ankle injury that forced him to miss 52 games in the middle of the season.
Lowrie spent the previous couple of days in Oakland, taking a physical that was the final piece to the puzzle. When the trade was finalized Monday afternoon, Lowrie had gone from a team that lost 107 games last year to the defending AL West division champs.
"At the end of the day, the game is all about winning," Lowrie told MLB.com. "I got a great opportunity in Houston and I really enjoyed my short time there. I'm looking forward to the next step in my career."
Carter, who stands 6-foot-4, will give the Astros some much-needed power from the right side of the plate. He has played parts of the last three years with the A's and has twice been named Oakland's organizational player of the year (2008-09).
The 26-year-old hit 16 homers with 39 RBIs in just 67 games last year for the A's. He played the majority of his time at first base, but saw some action at designated hitter and started 22 games in left field in 2010. If he can hit, Astros manager Bo Porter will find somewhere to put him.
Brett Wallace and Carlos Pena can also play first and DH, but they both swing from the left side.
"We went over all the permutations with Bo and the staff and they're very excited about all the different combinations, righty-lefty matchups, and the fact we have a lot more power in the lineup now," Luhnow said.
Peacock will compete for a spot in the starting rotation with the Astros this spring. He was 12-9 with a 6.01 ERA in 28 appearances, including 25 starts, last year at Triple-A Sacramento with 139 strikeouts in 134 2/3 innings. He pitched in three games for the Nationals in 2011, going 2-0, before he was deal to the A's as part of the multiplayer deal that sent left-handed pitcher Gio Gonzalez to Washington.
With Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell and Jordan Lyles apparent locks for the rotation, and Philip Humber and Erik Bedard having a leg up, the Astros also have John Ely, Alex White, Jarred Cosart, Dallas Keuchel and Edgar Gonzalez in the rotation mix.
"There's a lot of pitchers in competition for those rotation spots, and we do want to develop [Peacock] as a starter," Luhnow said. "If he doesn't make the [starting] five, he's going to go Triple-A, but he'll be given every shot to get a long look in Spring Training."
Stassi, 21, becomes one of the Astros' top catching prospects, joining Carlos Perez and Tyler Heineman. Stassi, who will likely begin the season in Double-A, hit .268 with 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 84 games last year at Class A Stockton.
"Stassi adds some depth to that mix," Luhnow said. "He had a good [Arizona] Fall League and he's ready for Double-A. I don't know if he's ready for Triple-A yet, but he's healthy now. We liked him when we saw him in the Fall League. He's definitely a top catching prospect in our mind."
The loss of Lowrie means switch-hitting Marwin Gonzalez and Tyler Greene will enter spring camp next week battling for the starting shortstop spot. Gonzalez, a Rule 5 pickup in 2011, is a polished defender, but Greene provides more pop without the top-notch glove.
They'll both be hard-pressed to match Lowrie's output from a year ago.
"Given where I was in my career and the point where the Astros are as an organization, I figured when Jeff got what he was looking for so he could continue to build the Minor League system and try to turn over the organization, I figured at some point it was in the cards," Lowrie said. "The timing of it, I wasn't sure of. Going into a week before Spring Training starts for me and the position guys, I was expecting to start the year with the Astros, but that's not the case. I'll be out in Phoenix with the A's."