For much of the winter, we here at TCB talked about how thin the shortstop market was. We wondered if that meant Jed Lowrie was the best choice on it and if that would then lead to a big trade for him before the season. If nothing else, most of us assumed that Lowrie would be shipped out by July at the latest, considering his age and value.
Still, it stings a little to see a premium player get traded out of Houston. Lowrie had power potential at a key position and could have manned that for Houston for a few more years until Carlos Correa was ready to go. Instead, the Astros and general manager Jeff Luhnow decided that three assets were better than one and made a deal with Oakland.
Was it a good one? Yeah, it was decent. The Astros netted a big league ready first baseman/designated hitter who walks and has power, but has yet to put all his tools together at once in the majors. He's also on the older side at 26 and may be a candidate to be flipped himself in a year or two.
Brad Peacock is an interesting get, as a power pitcher who struggled last season but is definitely ready to get a shot in the big leagues. With his strikeout potential, he could be a top of the rotation starter...if his control is ever good enough. At the very least, if Peacock flames out, he could end up as a power arm in the bullpen.
The third piece to the haul is Max Stassi, a power hitting catcher who was rated as the best defender at the position in Oakland's system. He joins an impressive list of catchers that Jeff Luhnow has added through trades and the draft since he got here, building a bunch of depth behind starter Jason Castro.
That's a ton of value, but more importantly, Luhnow got three guys with a chance to become impact players. We've talked over and over again about how Houston lacks players with significant upside. Well, Peacock can be a No. 2 starter if he refines some things. Carter can be a 20-30 homer guy if he makes enough contact. Stassi can be a power-hitting, good glove guy at catcher, making him an impact player on a sliding scale for that position.
One impact-caliber player turned into three. What's more, Luhnow has opened up his window even further by getting younger and younger on this roster. Instead of waiting for the 30-something Lowrie to break out, he's got a few more years to see if Carter can. He also added another pitcher to the mix in a rotation that is suddenly much more interesting going forward than it's been in a couple of years.
The only quibble I have is with the timing. I know Luhnow likes Jake Elmore (which we'll get into more later), but who will fill in at shortstop. We kind of all agreed last week that Marwin Gonzalez should only be used in small doses at short, which leaves Elmore and Tyler Greene as the other two everyday options there.
Unless Luhnow believes Jonathan Villar can jump up and grab the job himself, the Astros have a hole in their newly built infield that was supposed to be a cornerstone of the 2013 team. That great defense we thought they'd have in front of a bunch of ground ball pitchers? Looks much more sketchy now.
If he had pulled this trade off a few weeks ago or, ideally, during the Winter Meetings, there were free agent shortstops who could have been signed to fill the gaps. Sure, they wouldn't have been perfect, but they could have provided more of a stop-gap than the three-headed monster the Astros have going right now.
Timing is everything. Luhnow seems to have struck on that with the trade in the first place, but missed out on the second part. He got value for his commodity, but left himself dangerously shallow at home because of the trade.
That's not an indictment of the job Luhnow did here. He got a good value for a player that didn't have long in an Astros uniform. But, it's more of a disheartening sign for fans who wanted to see a more competitive team in 2013. This team just lost its most talented player and added potential to fill his spot. That's great for the long-term, but may make fans glad CSN Houston isn't being shown in their markets any time soon.