For the second time in just a matter of weeks, the Oakland Athletics made a trade designed to help the team win now. After years of rebuilding, it is a bit of a shock to the system to see the A’s trade away prospects to make the Major League club better right now.

The A’s traded first baseman/DH Chris Carter plus prospects Brad Peacock and Max Stassi for the Astros short stop Jed Lowrie and relief pitcher Fernando Rodriguez.

What the A’s got

The centerpiece of the trade is Jed Lowrie; I have been a fan of Lowrie going back to his days with the Red Sox. Lowrie over his career been an esentially league average hitter posting a 98 wRC+ and 97 OPS+, while playing an average Major League shortstop. When you add all that up the A’s get a very valuable player.

The one issue with Lowrie is that he hasn’t been able to stay on the field for extended periods of time due to injuries. His injury history is pretty scary with quite a laundry list of ailments.

  • In 2009 he missed over 100 games with a wrist injury.
  • In 2010 he missed 94 games with mononucleosis.
  • In 2011 he missed 56 games with a shoulder injury.
  • In 2012 he missed nearly 60 games with an ankle injury (53 games) and a thumb sprain (6 games).

In total he has missed 318 games while only playing in 353. The injury history doesn’t suggest that he has any one specific injury that has reoccurred over and over, but the sheer number of days missed is a bit of a red flag.

Luckily for the A’s it doesn’t appear that they will be expecting him to be the starter at any one position. Instead, it looks like he will be used for infield depth and as an insurance policy should the candidates for the second and third base jobs falter or if Hiroyuki Nakajima is unable to adjust to the American game from Japan.

It is probably foolish to expect Lowrie to play in any more than 100 to 120 games, but even in a partial season he should be worth a solid 2 to 2.5 wins above replacement (WAR). He gives the A’s infield additional flexibility and depth, which is always important.

The other player the A’s got in the deal is relief pitcher Fernando Rodriguez. Rodriguez is not really a pitcher of much note, he is a fastball/curveball reliever with a mid-90s fastball that he throws two-thirds of the time. He has put up fairly impressive strikeout rates, getting about 25% of the batters he has faced out on strikes. However, he walks too many people and has a tendency to give up the long ball. Perhaps pitching in the O.co will help some of those long fly balls turn into outs, but even that shouldn’t turn Rodriguez into more than a low-leverage reliever.

What the A’s gave up

The A’s will send a total of three players to the Astros: Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi. Carter is probably the biggest name of the three with a sort of breakout season for the A’s last season hitting 16 homers in just 67 games. Peacock is one of the prospects that the A’s got in the Gio Gonzalez trade while Stassi is a former 4th round pick.

Carter is a pretty traditional three-true-outcome hitter — he struck out, walked or hit a homer on 53% of his plate appearances last season. The question with Carter was always if he’d be able to make enough contact to stick at the Major League level. With a contact rate of 65% that’s still an open question, but one that matters less if he can continue to hit home runs on 25% of his fly balls. It hurts to see him go, but this might have been selling Carter near the peak of his value for the A’s.

Peacock profiles to be a back of the rotation starter or relief pitcher. He broke out after an impressive 2011 season in double-A and triple-A but was not able to duplicate that success in 2012. Peacock features a low- to mid-90s fastball with good secondary pitches. The problem with Peacock has always been his control. When he is able to locate his above average stuff he is capable of being a very good pitcher, but too often he hasn’t and his results have been sub-par. John Sickels of minor league ball graded him a B- prospect, ranking him No. 6 overall. With the A’s starting pitching depth it takes a bit of the sting out of losing Peacock.

Stassi was an interesting prospect who because of injuries was limited in the amount of professional experience he had gotten. He profiles as a solid regular, who has passable defense behind the plate with good power. John Sickels of minor league ball graded him a C+, ranking him No. 12 overall.

Concluding thoughts

The A’s made their Major League team better; Lowrie is an above average player when he is healthy (an admitted big question mark) who gives the A’s depth all around the infield in case of injury or poor performance. In addition he comes with two years of team control.

The A’s had to give up a decent amount of talent to acquire Lowrie, but each of those guys comes with as many if not more question marks of their own as Lowrie has. In this trade the A’s get the better player and really only had to give up spare parts that were not integral to their long-term plans.

It is nice to see the A’s use their Minor League assets to make the Major League better. Billy Beane sees an open window to compete and is working in win now mode to give this talented young team the best chance to compete with the Rangers and the Angels.