keyboard_arrow_uptop

Devout “Seinfeld” fans undoubtedly remember the scene when Jerry tells George, “If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” New Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow heeded that advice on Wednesday when he agreed to trade reliever Mark Melancon to the Red Sox for infielder Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland.

The Astros were baseball’s worst team last season, after four years under previous GM Ed Wade, who was fired in November after owner Jim Crane took over the franchise.  Wade’s most glaring flaw was an odd propensity for overvaluing relievers, often at the expense of prospects or other parts of his major-league roster. Not surprisingly, Luhnow was determined to immediately change course.

Melancon pitched 71 1/3 innings for Houston last season—most of them as the team’s closer—and logged a solid 3.22 FIP. He was effective in the role but was nonetheless worth just 0.3 WARP. To Wade, Melancon would have seemed a valuable commodity; to Luhnow, he was a fungible one.

For a franchise rebuilding from scratch, as the Astros are, Melancon is precisely the type of player who should be used as a trade chip. By the time Houston is ready to contend, the 26-year-old Melancon will either flame out or become an unwieldy burden on the team’s payroll. Lowrie, on the other hand, could be the team’s long-term shortstop, and Weiland may blossom into either a back-end starter or a useful middle reliever.

Wednesday’s trade may ultimately work out for the Red Sox, who are betting that Melancon’s plus stuff will play as well in the AL East as it did in the NL Central. For the Astros, though, it represents a two-fold step in the right direction, improving their roster and revising their philosophy.

When the Astros first began their search for Wade’s successor, fans pined for an established, elite GM like the Rays’ Andrew Friedman. Luhnow, who was the Cardinals’ vice president of amateur scouting and player development from 2003-2011, was a much lower-profile candidate, but equally qualified for the job. His first significant deal showed a commitment to the rebuilding process that Wade—perhaps due to the influence of previous owner Drayton McLane—could never make.

 As Elaine quipped in the aforementioned Seinfeld scene, “There’s no telling what can happen from this.”  

Thank you for reading

This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.

Subscribe now
You need to be logged in to comment. Login or Subscribe
jedjethro
12/15
Amen ... it's still hard to wrap the mind around the concept that the Astros have a plan, as well as somebody in place who looks like they will be skilled in executing it.
harderj
12/15
While I agree that the trade makes sense in terms of properly valuing relief pitchers and dealing from strength, can Jed Lowrie really become the shortstop of the future for the Astros?

His career splits suggest he's perhaps a switch-hitter who should give up hitting from the left side, he's had serious injury issues, he's pretty bad defensively by the metrics I've seen, at least at short and first (Strat has him at utility-4 for 2011 cards), and he's no spring chicken himself (he'll turn 28 in mid-April).

I love Lowrie, and gladly took him in the fourth round of my Strat draft last year, as a valuable utility card (especially against lefties) with some promise for the future. I hope the Astros are right and he's more than that.
chartjes
12/15
I drafted Lowrie when he first came up with the Red Sox in my long-running simball league and have been frustrated by his injury problems. He can hit when healthy but it seems to take him a long time to tell anyone when he gets hurt and then it cuts into his overall numbers.
beerchaser42
12/15
Seems to me that if just one of Lowrie or Weiland works out, as a SS or back-end SP respectively, then this deal was still worth making. If both of them end up helping the team, that's just gravy.
Oleoay
12/16
The way I look at it, if so many utility infielders like Carroll are getting multiyear contracts and people are clamoring for the Betancourts and Bloomquists of the world, Lowrie will have a fair amount of trade value at the deadline.