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February 5, 2013

Transaction Analysis

An Expensive Lowrie

by R.J. Anderson and Mark Anderson

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired 1B-R Chris Carter, RHP Brad Peacock, and C-R Max Stassi from the Athletics for SS-S Jed Lowrie and RHP Fernando Rodriguez. [2/4]

Carter moves on to organization no. 4 in search of a real shot in the majors. He's out of options now, so the Astros must like him enough to pencil him in for a spot on the opening day roster. The book on Carter is the same as always: he combines big-time raw power with big-time contact issues. He's not a good defender at first base and could serve as the Astros' designated hitter, depending on what they think about Carlos Pena's glove. (Speaking of which, Pena and Carter should be the odds-on favorites to lead all first baseman/DH pairs in strikeouts.) Carter is the kind of player a non-competitive Houston team should be playing: Flawed but perhaps not fatally so. If nothing else, he should be an upgrade over Rule 5 pick Nate Freiman, who now seems unlikely to last beyond spring training. —R.J. Anderson

Aside from Carter, the Astros added two prospects with the potential to impact the major-league roster this year. Peacock is the most highly regarded player heading to the Astros and was also considered one of the most highly regarded prospects in last winter’s Gio Gonzalez trade between Oakland and Washington. 

Peacock earns higher marks for his broad arsenal and solid overall abilities than he does for some standout tool. When he was right in 2012, Peacock showed a fastball that can sit in the 91-93 mph range and touch 95 when he really needs the extra velocity. His fastball gets a little true at times and as a result his control and command must be in the plus range to remain effective. 

Peacock backs up his fastball with a quality curveball and solid changeup. The curveball is the preferred pitch among scouts, showing occasional bite and the ability to be a reliable second pitch. Peacock is in the final stretch of his developmental arc and is nearly ready for a role in a big-league rotation. 

Stassi’s 2013 big-league arrival is a little more tenuous thanks to a rash of injuries throughout his career. He has played only 115 games at High-A over the last two seasons but has hit at a .257/.331/.430 clip over that span. He has a little thump in his bat and a good plan at the plate, giving him two attributes that should play at the highest level. Even if he hits .250 against advanced pitching, he should still chip in a decent OBP and 10-15 home runs. 

Where Stassi really stands out is behind the plate. He is considered a quality defender with above-average catch-and-throw skills and a strong arm. His receiving ability has improved dramatically since turning pro and he earns high praise from scouts and coaches for his ability to work with his pitchers. Stassi’s defense is advanced enough that if he can stay on the field and continue to show some promise with the bat, he could race to the big leagues; particularly with an organization that plans to run some combination of Jason Castro, Carlos Corporan, Jason Jamarillo, and Chris Wallace behind the plate. —Mark Anderson

OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired SS-S Jed Lowrie and RHP Fernando Rodriguez from the Astros for 1B-R Chris Carter, RHP Brad Peacock, and C-R Max Stassi. [2/4]

Lowrie is the main draw here, even if he is a bit of a tease. Injuries are the main knock against Lowrie, as he's yet to top 400 plate appearances in a season (he came closest last year). The A's will reportedly use Lowrie as a utility player this season, which raises an interesting question: Is it better to limit Lowrie to fewer plate appearances if it means those plate appearances come when he's healthy? Don't write off Lowrie as the A's shortstop either, as Hiroyuki Nakajima will have to prove that his game translates stateside. Oakland will have Lowrie for the next two seasons before he reaches free agency.

Rodriguez tossed more than 120 innings for the Astros over the past two seasons and turns 29 in June, yet he remains a project. Originally signed by Houston as a minor-league free agent, Rodriguez boasts a low-to-mid-90s fastball and spike curve. His mechanics are a mess, however, as he's got an unbalanced, all-arm delivery which results in a shallow release point. The stuff merits messing with, and so do the results: Rodriguez has missed bats and targets consistently, though not enough to avoid problems with the long ball. If Oakland tinkers and it works out then Rodriguez could be a middle-relief option. —R.J. Anderson

CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed LHP Manny Parra to a one-year deal worth $1 million. [2/1]
Signed C-R Miguel Olivo to a minor-league deal. [2/1]

Here's what I wrote about Parra when the Brewers non-tendered him:

Parra, who turned 30 a month to the day before his non-tender, returned to the mound after missing 2011 due to elbow surgery. The well-built southpaw has never lived up to his promise, in no small part due to recurring arm and control woes. Neither plight is disappearing over the winter, but look for Parra to resurface as a left-handed specialist or in a piggyback role. Parra will become a free agent after next season, assuming he gets the necessary service time, and with a strong campaign may position himself for a better deal.

It looks like Parra will be the Reds' second left-handed reliever behind Sean Marshall. That means Tony Cingrani will start in the minors, and it means Bryan Price has a new toy to play with after captaining Alfredo Simon's impressive turnaround last season. Parra has the tools to get back to good, so give Price decent odds of making the small signing work.

Olivo is in camp to provide some pop against left-handers and to throw out baserunners. He's a miserable hacker, though, and those are the only real pros to his game. What this means for Devin Mesoraco isn't clear. The Rays made inquiries about Mesoraco earlier in the offseason but were rebuked. Still, the Reds opted for Dioner Navarro on the playoff roster and it's not hard to envision them rolling with Olivo as Ryan Hanigan's backup. There's reason to remain optimistic about Mesoraco's future. He just might have to wait a little longer than expected. —R.J. Anderson

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Reportedly set to sign RHP Brandon Lyon to a one-year deal. [2/4]
Signed OF-R Marlon Byrd to a minor-league deal. [2/1]

For a team with little free-agent activity in the first half of the offseason, the Mets are coming on strong here late with low-wage deals. Expect them to sign Mr. Fysh soon.

Lyon will join a bullpen full of returning arms and non-roster invitees. Like Matt Lindstrom before him, Lyon's stay on the free-agent market is curious. He pitched well last season (61 innings, a 3.10 ERA, and a 3.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio) while splitting the season between the Astros and Blue Jays. Lyon didn't regain the velocity he had before shoulder surgery, but he's a three-pitch guy now (fastball, cutter, and curveball) and used the pitches well enough last season to inspire confidence. Assuming Lyon stays healthy you can pencil him in as someone getting dealt in July.

Byrd, who as of now is playing in the Caribbean Series, will reportedly compete with Andrew Brown for the Mets' fifth outfielder spot come spring. Last season was a lost cause for Byrd. He struggled with the Cubs and the Red Sox and then failed a drug test. It's a sure, why not? deal for Sandy Alderson. If Byrd shows some life in spring the club can get a nice return on a small investment. Otherwise they can cut bait while only losing time. —R.J. Anderson

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Mark Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mark's other articles. You can contact Mark by clicking here

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