This past offseason Beane made a few questionable trades, as he is well known to do. But none were nearly as controversial as sending slugger and fan favorite Chris Carter, along with Brad Peacock and Max Stassi, to Houston in exchange for Jed Lowrie. Many thought it was just too much to part with for Lowrie, while others didn’t understand why a SS was necessary given the recent signing of Japanese star Hiro Nakajima. The confusion was further compounded by Beane saying that Lowrie was going to be used as a utility player. Kinda like Ben Zobrist, Lowrie would be in the lineup everyday but at a different defensive position. That's quite a lot of talent to part with for a utility player. Given the controversy over the trade, I thought it would be a good idea to come back and take a look at the trade after just a little over a month of baseball.
So far in the early going, Jed Lowrie has simply been the best hitting SS not named Tulowitzki, and he’s not even that far behind Tulo (164 wRC+). Lowrie’s offensive numbers have been nothing short of impressive, posting a slash line of .327/.412/.519 with 3 HR’s and a 159 wRC+. His fielding has left a bit to be desired though, putting up the worst UZR at his position in the game to date (-5.0) to go along with 4 errors. Anyone who has watched him play this year can tell you he has clear issues with his range and arm, although he probably isn’t a true -20 UZR/150 SS, and that number should improve as the year goes on. In any case, thus far Lowrie has been a net positive for the A’s, with a WAR close to 1.
Chris Carter has been playing the OF almost exclusively for the Astros when he isn’t DH’ing. If you all remember Carter’s brief attempt at LF for the A’s back in 2010, it wasn’t good. It still isn’t, as UZR considers him a worse fielder in LF (-30 UZR/150) than Lowrie is at SS. Still, he’s getting plenty of time at DH, which is really his best defensive position. As for his offense, we all saw what Carter’s bat is capable of last year, but he unfortunately hasn’t continued that this year. Carter’s slash line is an unimpressive .210/.288/.419 with 6 HR’s and a 93 wRC+. Carter is supremely gifted, especially in the amount of power he possesses, but he is also K’ing at a rate of 41.5% of PA’s! All in all, Carter has just about been the definition of a replacement level player so far this year. I fully expect him to finish the year with a better batting line than that, but he hasn’t looked so great thus far in 2013.
Brad Peacock made the Astro’s opening day rotation. He is now in their bullpen, after putting up a 9.41 ERA and 7.33 FIP (5.59 xFIP) in April. Peacock has been getting a fair amount of K’s, at 7.33%. His trouble seems to be control, as he is walking over 5 per 9 innings and giving up almost 3 HR’s per 9 innings. The season is still very young and Peacock has a lot of time to turn things around, but he has been worse than anyone in the A’s rotation so far this year, and that is saying a lot! Catcher Max Stassi has played one game for the Astros A ball affiliate since returning from the DL with a hernia.
Looking at the above, we see that in the month of April it looks like this trade has worked out very well for the A’s. But what changes things immensely are all the injuries the A’s have had. Hiro and Rosales started the year on the DL, and Sizemore made his way back to the DL a week later. That’s 3 middle IF’ers unavailable to play. In addition to that, spring training reports were bleak on Hiro’s ability to hit the ball or field his position. Lowrie has been a pretty invaluable piece in the middle of the diamond so far, something that Carter would not be able to do for the A’s. With Carter on the team we would have seen a lot more Parrino/Sogard at SS, and I don’t think any of us want that.
The injuries to the A’s OF’ers have made Lowrie’s bat that much more necessary as well. With Cespedes out for 2 weeks, Lowrie was batting 3rd and 4th quite a bit, and his bat was certainly good enough to do so. Now with Crisp and Young out, Lowrie has been at the top of the line-up. Carter’s bat may have been able to plug into those spots, but it would be at the expense of our 1B Moss or a DH/OF type like Young/Crisp/Reddick/Smith. Lowrie’s ability to play SS has allowed all those players to stay in the line-up while Lowrie fills in at the middle of the batting order.
Things could easily change. Today is only the 3rd day of May, and baseball is a very long season. By the end of the year we could be wishing we had Carter and/or Peacock instead. But after one month of baseball, it is clear that Lowrie has been a savior for this team. If he continues to hit the way he has so far (which, granted, is a very big assumption), it’s very probable you will see Lowrie as the starting SS on the AL All Star Team come July. Yes, he’s been that good so far.