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:

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.