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:

Phillies owner John Middleton is in Las Vegas with Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper
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Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports that Phillies owner John Middleton flew to Las Vegas for a meeting with Bryce Harper on Friday. Per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, it’s “more of a meet-and-greet than a sign-a-deal” affair, but as the club is still at the forefront of trade rumors involving the All-Star slugger, there remains a possibility (however slight) that something could be completed in the days to come.

Even now, the Phillies aren’t alone in the race to sign Harper, but recent rumors have helped whittle down the competition from five or more teams (Phillies, Nationals, White Sox, Giants, and Padres) to three strong contenders. The Giants are said to be interested in a lucrative short-term deal with the outfielder, while the Padres remain in the conversation despite inking Manny Machado to a mammoth 10-year, $300 million contract this week. It’s not yet clear just how far either team would go to outbid Philadelphia as talks with Harper intensify.

As for the Nationals and White Sox, the former officially bowed out earlier today, and MLB Network’s Jon Heyman adds that the latter won’t make a strong play for Harper as they feel the asking price and competing offers are “getting too high” for the 26-year-old’s services. If a mystery team is still in the mix, there’s been no word on their standing with Harper in the last month or so.