Athletics acquire Jed Lowrie from Astros in five-player deal

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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:

The Cubs live for another day, but death will come soon

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The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.

After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.

But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.

  • They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
  • They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
  • They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
  • They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.

The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.

Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.