The Houston Astros continued the last steps of the breakdown phase of their rebuilding process, trading shortstop Jed Lowrie to the Oakland A's for former top prospect Chris Carter and current prospects Brad Peacock and Max Stassi. The A's added yet another complementary piece to their roster as they attempt to build on last year's success while the Astros continue to attack their rebuilding process with full force.
I've already applauded the Astros on the way they have been willing to be terrible this year - and man are they going to be terrible this year - in order to have success in the future. This trade may not include any major pieces that will be cornerstones of their next playoff team, but equally important in the rebuilding process is organizational depth, and they got some key components for that effort in exchange for a player who, at 29, has yet to play more than 97 games in any given season. That's a win for the Astros.
Carter is a former top prospect, thanks to his prodigious power potential, but he's never been able to fully use that power in the majors. Last season he showed that he can pound lefties (241/.404/.498 vs. LHP in '12) but he's not very good defensively and is on the short end of the platoon split. Combined with Carlos Pena, the Astros potentially an all-star platoon at DH, but that won't do much for a team destined for 100-losses. Still, Carter is just 26 and has 384 career plate appearances in the majors, so there's still a decent shot that he figures out how to use his power better in the big leagues and can at least become a competent full-time DH. It's a worthwhile risk for the Astros to take.
Peacock was part of the package that the Washington Nationals sent to Oakland for Gio Gonzalez, but had a terrible season in 2012 trying to build on his breakout 2011 season. The right-hander struggled with the offensive-friendly Pacific Coast League and experienced a season where everything went wrong from him, including self-inflicted issues like too many walks and bad luck with balls in play. He's probably not as good as he was in 2011 but he's also not as bad as he was in 2012. He joins Jarred Cosart as the Astros best big-league ready (or close to it) arms and he could be up at some point in 2013 if he has more success in the PCL this season.
Stassi is the lottery ticket in this trade. An expensive over-sign as a 4th round pick in 2009, much has been expected from Stassi, who has shown glimpses of the talent that got him paid in between stints on the disabled list. He turned in his best professional season in 2012, hitting .268/.331/.468 with 15 homers in 84 games. He's a good defensive catcher, so if he stays healthy, he'll get to the big leagues one way or another. He's also always had above-average power for a catcher, so that could elevate him into the status of an average starter. He's too aggressive at the plate, which leads to a lot of out-making and poor batting averages, but with decent power and good defense, there's still plenty there to make him a catcher worth playing. The question, of course, will be the health.
In the end, this is a win for both teams. The A's got a piece that fit their needs perfectly while dealing from a position of depth and not giving up anything they're really going to regret trading away. The Astros, on the other hand, got three very usable pieces for an injury-prone player who was going to help them get from 105 to 103 losses had he stuck around. Most importantly, however, the Astros remain committed to replenishing depth in a farm system that has gone from one of the worst in baseball to one of the deepest in a short period of time.