Two offseasons ago the Astros traded Jed Lowrie to the A’s for Chris Carter, Brad Peacock, and Max Stassi, and now they’re apparently interested in re-signing him as a free agent.
Brian McTaggart of MLB.com reports that “multiple sources say the Astros have been pursuing” Lowrie, who was not given a qualifying offer by the A’s and has no draft pick compensation attached to his free agency.
Lowrie had a breakout season with the A’s in 2013, but his OPS dropped more than 100 points this year and the 30-year-old’s defense at shortstop also came into question. However, it wouldn’t be hard for him to provide an upgrade over Marwin Gonzalez and Jonathan Villar at shortstop in Houston and he’d keep the position warm for stud prospect Carlos Correa’s eventual arrival.
Lowrie played just one season for the Astros after they acquired him from the Red Sox, hitting .244 with 16 homers and a .769 OPS in 97 games in 2012.
Back in January, the Astros avoided arbitration with catcher Jason Castro, agreeing to a one-year deal worth $2.45 million. Prior to the agreement, there was some speculation that the Astros would sign him to a multi-year extension, buying out all three of his arbitration years and likely at least one year of free agency. If an agreement couldn’t be reached, they could explore trading Castro and fall back on prospect Max Stassi.
GM Jeff Luhnow, however, is quite happy with Castro and what he brings to the table, even if his future isn’t known. Via Brian McTaggart of MLB.com:
Luhnow said several teams called him to ask about acquiring Castro this past offseason, but he said when you put the entire package together — what Castro does off the field and the leadership he provides and his links to the past — the organization decided that Castro had too much value.
“We take all of those elements into account, and we really feel he’s a player we can’t be without at this point,” Luhnow said. “I think he’s exceeded expectations, even internally for the people that drafted him in the first round. He’s a left-handed-hitting catcher with power and good defensive skills. He’s been injured here and there, but by and large, he’s everything you hope for in a first-round pick.”
According to FanGraphs, among catchers with at least 300 plate appearances last season, Castro was the fourth-most valuable out of 32 qualified catchers at 4.3 Wins Above Replacement. He trailed only Yadier Molina, Joe Mauer (now a first baseman), and Buster Posey. Clearly, the Astros have a major asset on their hands, but one can understand the thought process behind trading him, as the Astros are still at least two seasons away from being competitive.
Catcher Jason Castro was the Astros’ most productive player throughout the 2013 season but they may make him available in a trade depending on the development of catching prospect Max Stassi and their ability to sign Castro to a contract extension, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Castro, 26, is eligible for arbitration for the first time and can become a free agent after the 2016 season.
In his first full season in the big leagues, Castro finished 2013 with a .276/.350/.485 line and was the fourth-most valuable catcher in baseball according to FanGraphs WAR (min. 400 plate appearances).
Stassi, who turns 23 in March, moved up to Double-A for the first time and enjoyed a lot of success. In 323 plate appearances with Corpus Christi, he posted an .863 OPS with 17 home runs. He is also highly regarded for his ability to play defense. If Stassi continues to progress rapidly and the Astros are able to sign Castro to an extension, Rosenthal suggests the Astros may move Castro to first base.