Question of the Week: Did the Astros trade Jed Lowrie a year too soon?

Thearon W. Henderson

Given that the Cardinals are now interested in the former Houston shortstop, did the Astros get the best deal for him?

That's right, our debate series is back again. This time, it's because of the news that the St. Louis Cardinals are interested in Jed Lowrie. That made me think: did the Astros get the best possible deal for Lowrie when they traded him to Oakland? Could they have gotten a better deal this year, centered around Shelby Miller perhaps?

I asked this to the TCB staff and two intrepid individuals agreed to take sides. First up, we have conroestro with his answer for why the Astros did indeed move too quickly.

Conroestro: Yes, they traded him too soon

Could the Astros have gotten a better deal for Jed Lowrie this offseason?

Jed Lowrie's 2012 season was filled with ups and downs. At his best he provided above average offense at a premium defensive position while also providing adequate defense. At his worst he once again spent significant time on the disabled list and only appeared in 97 games. When Luhnow traded Lowrie that offseason to the Oakland A's the return reflected both a player that was coming off of a career year, but also a player who possessed a reputation of being injury prone. Let's look at the player's Houston received in that deal.

Chris Carter was previously a well-regarded prospect who had yet to establish himself in the majors and was entering his age 26 season. He possessed huge power potential that unfortunately also came with the unwanted side effect of contact issues. Brad Peacock was coming off his worst minor league season in which he produced a 6.01 ERA in 134.2 innings pitched at the AAA level and was entering his age 25 season. He only had one season (2011) in which he produced an ERA under 4 for an entire season. Max Stassi was a young catcher who possessed big upside but also had his own problems when it came to staying healthy.

Each player acquired by the Astros in this trade had everyday regular upside or better, but also significant bust potential. However that was expected to be the case for a player like Lowrie who had yet to prove that he was capable of remaining healthy.

Fast forward to the 2013 season and Jed Lowrie did exactly what Luhnow had hoped he would do when acquired, which was stay healthy. He appeared in 154 games and logged well over 600 plate appearances. He provided the A's with a 3.6 fWAR, which was the 2nd most for a shortstop among qualifiers in terms of fWAR in the AL behind the Rays Yunel Escobar.

If the Astros still had Lowrie and made him available this offseason he would become one of the more attractive options available in a free agent market that really only possesses two prominent names in Stephen Drew and Jhonny Peralta. Lowrie produced a greater fWAR than Drew, and exactly the same fWAR as Peralta. Drew will cost a team their first round draft pick, and has been struck by the injury bug in the past as well. Peralta possesses baggage of his own. That's not to mention the fact that Lowrie is younger than both and will cost significantly less as well. Other trade candidates like Elvis Andrus or Troy Tulowitzki could become available, but both would cost much more in terms of prospects and are signed to long term expensive deals.

In short, Lowrie has raised his value compared to last season, and given the state of the market could potentially net the A's a bigger and more certain return than what he netted the Astros last offseason. Outside of his injury history the only real strike against him is that he only has one year on his contract remaining before he becomes a free agent. That concern could also be reduced if he were to be signed to an extension or given a qualified offer for draft pick compensation.

Kyuss94: No, they did it right

Around a year ago, the Astros traded highly talented, oft-injured shortstop Jed Lowrie to the Oakland A's for a three-player package of Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi. At the time of the trade, and to this day, fans have debated whether the move was premature, or if Jeff Luhnow should have traded Lowrie at all. My opinion hasn't changed since the trade came across the wire- the Astros made the right move.

Jed Lowrie is a player who is incredibly difficult to value. At his best, he shows a middle of the lineup bat, above average glove at short, patience and the plate and defensive versatility. However, all of the pluses come with one huge caveat- he can't stay on the field. Lowrie has appeared in the majors every season from 2008 through 2013, and last year was the first time he played a full complement of games. The results were stellar, no doubt- he posted a 121 wRC+ and 3.6 WAR while knocking 15 balls out of the park, even while playing his home games in Oakland.

Before 2013 though, the story was different. Lowrie had never played more than 97 games in a major league season before donning the green and gold, and twice he failed to top 55 games. A player who is that much of a health liability will always have a trade market that is softer than many think it should be given their talent level- but that shouldn't be seen as unfair. Teams were never lining up to trade for Michael Redd in his Milwaukee days, even when he was a lock for 20 points a night when he suited up. In baseball especially, the ability to hold up through a whole season and perform for a team into October is of utmost importance. Many GMs, just based on their own philosophies, will never roll the dice on a player like Jed Lowrie. It's the reason that Oakland, the team that currently rosters Lowrie, just signed Nick Punto. It's also the reason that the Astros were able to acquire Jed Lowrie in the first place- the Red Sox were fed up with Lowrie's health and shipped him down south in exchange for Mark Melancon.

There will always be a market for shortstops, but there is not nearly as strong a market for shorstops with track records like Jed Lowrie's. As a fan, I love the way he plays the game, his talent level, and the way he overcame the knocks on his size that echoed from his Stanford days through his minor league run to develop into an above-average major league player. But if I'm running a team, he's not someone I ever feel confident counting on for a full year, and that's not being helped by the fact that he'll turn 30 in the first month of the next MLB season.

The Cardinals are reported to have interest in Lowrie now, but they're also known to be particularly stingy with prospects in trades. If Lowrie ends up a Redbird, or on any team but the A's, I doubt that Oakland draws more in return for Lowrie than they gave up to get him; especially when the massive step forward that Max Stassi took is taken into account.

Reader's choice

That's what they said. What do you think? Give us your best case in the comments below

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