The Athletics have just strengthened their infield, acquiring Jed Lowrie from the Astros in a five-player trade. Lowrie will head to Oakland along with right-hander Fernando Rodriguez while first baseman Chris Carter, right-hander Brad Peacock and catching prospect Max Stassi are being sent to Houston.
Lowrie has shown considerable potential at times, but he has struggled to stay healthy during his career. The 28-year-old hit .244/.331/.438 with 16 home runs, 42 RBI and a .769 OPS last season, but he was limited to 97 games due to knee and ankle injuries. He exclusively played shortstop last season, but also has experience at second base and third base. The A’s signed Hiroyuki Nakajima over the winter to play shortstop, so it’s unclear where Lowrie will fit in.
While the A’s acquired Lowrie with the idea of winning now, the Astros were focused on extracting value from a player who didn’t figure to be around when the team is ready to contend. And they did pretty well here. Carter had 16 homers and an .864 OPS in 260 plate appearances with the A’s last season and could be used at either first base or DH for Houston. Peacock is coming off a disappointing season in which he posted a 6.01 ERA with Triple-A Sacramento, but he’s just a year removed from being a featured piece of the Gio Gonzalez trade. Stassi, who turns 22 in March, returned from an injury-plagued 2011 to deliver 15 homers and a .799 OPS last season with High-A Stockton.
For more on the trade, below is a phone interview Steve Bunin of CSNHouston.com conducted with Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow:
Update (7:01 PM EDT): David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the deal has been completed.
ESPN’s Keith Law reported on Saturday evening that a bad contract swap involving the Braves’ Hector Olivera and the Padres’ Matt Kemp was “getting close.” Olivera has been pulled off the field, per Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that only a last-second medical would kill the deal at this point, and that the Padres will be sending money to the Braves.
Kemp, 31, will have $64.5 million remaining on his contract through 2019 after this season, but the Dodgers will pay $3.5 million annually over those remaining three years, so the $64.5 million is really $54 million. The veteran has compiled a .262/.285/.489 triple-slash line with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 431 plate appearances for the Padres this season.
Olivera, 31, will have $28.5 million remaining on his contract through 2020 after this season. The outfielder was handed an 82-game suspension, beginning on May 26, for his involvement in a domestic dispute on April 13. The suspension is up on August 2. He has a .501 OPS in 21 major league at-bats this season and a .278 OPS in 37 PA at Triple-A.
Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that the Padres will consider designating Olivera for assignment. The trade is all about the salary dump for the Padres, as they’d rather give outfield playing time to prospects Hunter Renfroe and Manuel Margot.
The Athletics and Royals swapped outfielders on Saturday. The Athletics sent Billy Burns to Kansas City and the Royals sent Brett Eibner to Oakland.
Burns, 26, doesn’t provide much in the way of offense, but he runs the bases well and plays solid defense. He was hitting .234/.270/.303 with 11 doubles, four triples, and 14 stolen bases in 274 plate appearances.
Eibner, 27, was batting .231/.286/.423 with three home runs and 10 RBI in 85 plate appearances. He has spent most of the season with Triple-A Omaha, where he’s put up a .902 OPS in 219 PA. Eibner played the outfield corners in the majors, but racked up a ton of time playing center in the minors, so his versatility will be valuable to the A’s.
Burns will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the 2017 season while Eibner has hardly accrued any service time, which might explain part of the motivation behind the trade for the small-market Athletics.