Oakland Athletics Pay Un-Billy Beane-Like Price To Get Target In Jed Lowrie

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Because of the team’s financial constraints, packages of young players and MLB prospects are usually the type of things that Oakland Athletics GM Billy Beane is used to getting in trades.

So understandably, my initial reaction at the package deal that sent Chris Carter, Brad Peacock and Max Stassi to the Houston Astros for talented middle infielder Jed Lowrie (plus reliever Fernando Rodriguez) hovered just below bewilderment. Beane is used to filling out these roles in low-risk/high-upside moves, like the one that saw him acquire a few months’ worth of Stephen Drew last season.

But trading a trio of high-upside pieces to a new divisional rival for an equally high-upside – though injury-prone – middle infielder? That’s a little bit unlike the Athletic’s GM.

At least, if you’re going by the “Moneyball” reputation that he’s carried around all these years, anyway.

There are, of course, good enough baseball for the Astros and Athletics to make this trade. In fact, it’s almost uncannily reasonable. Lowrie was in the middle of a breakout before an injury derailed his season in 2012, and he could be exactly what the A’s are looking for, a super-utility type who can save the team from Josh Donaldson at third, provide some stability at second base (where a three-way competition is set to take place), and who could take over for newcomer Hiroyuki Nakajima should his transition to the major leagues not go as well as expected.

There’s already been rumblings from the A’s that Lowrie could even play a bit of first base,  providing something of a complimentary piece to Brandon Moss, while also fitting in as the team’s DH from time to time. In short, expect Lowrie to be all over the place in 2013, as the A’s will look to maximize his versatility and shift him if necessary.

So yes, it’s a great fit, provided he can stay healthy, but that risk is also why it’s a little off-putting that Beane chose to move the quantities he did. Sure, he was dealing from strength: Carter’s power wasn’t necessarily needed, not with Moss around; Peacock had a poor year in the minors, even if he still has the upside to a back-end starter, and Derek Norris is in Stassi’s way to the majors. Still, the team should know better than anyone else that power like Carter’s don’t come around too often, and that you could never have enough young pitching.

It’s not that the deal doesn’t work for both sides; it’s just that the A’s haven’t made a habit of being buyers like this, so to say. The team could have moved to add a utility infielder during the season, and it may have even come at a lower cost, and carries less risk.

It sounds, on paper, like Beane is flipping the script, and it sounds like a statement to the AL West. Then again, after the Athletics’ unlikely run to the top of the division last season, perhaps that’s exactly the move they’re ready for.

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