Luhnow’s first trade is a good one

Less than a week after being introduced as general manager of the Astros, Jeff Luhnow put his first major imprints on the club when he acquired Red Sox shortstop Jed Lowrie and pitcher Kyle Weiland in exchange for closer Mark Melancon.

“For me, it’s the classic win-win trade,” Luhnow said. “Boston had the need for a bullpen arm. We’re going to suffer a loss in our bullpen by not having Melancon there for us, but what we’re able to get back is a guy who can play a premium position and who has had success with the bat and who has done a lot of good things. To add on top of that a young pitcher capable of being a starting pitcher in the big leagues, we felt this is an opportunity to take advantage of.”

I’m never one to judge trades until you get a better idea of how the players will perform in their new uniforms, but at first glance this appears to be a good deal for both sides. But, in this space, let’s focus on the Astros.

The Astros needed a shortstop after losing Clint Barmes and they got one in the hard-nosed Lowrie, who could probably use a fresh start. He’s a switch-hitter who’s under club control for three more years, so he fits into what the Astros are doing. You can bet Astros manager Brad Mills gave his endorsement of Lowrie, considering he was his bench coach in Boston for two years.

Sure, the Astros had internal candidates to play shortstop from a group including Angel Sanchez, Diory Hernandez, Rule 5 pick-up Marwin Gonzalez and non-roster invitee Brian Bixler, but Lowrie is a better option to be the everyday man at shortstop.

Lowrie, 27, has played a part-time role with the Red Sox since 2008, appearing a career-high 88 games last season and hitting .252/.303/.382. He had his best year in 2010 when he hit .287/.381/.526 with nine homers and 24 RBIs, but he was limited to 171 at-bats. He’s a career .214 hitter with a .293 on-base percentage as a left-hander and a .326 hitter with a .385 on-base percentage as a right-hander.

Weiland, a 25-year-old right-hander who went to Notre Dame, made a steady rise through Boston’s system after being drafted in the third round in 2008. He got his feet wet in the Majors last season, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t come to Astros camp and compete for a spot in the rotation. He throws in the low 90’s with his fastball, but can hit 95 mph and has good sink, according to scouting reports. He was a closer at Notre Dame, but appears to have a future in the rotation.

The Astros will miss Melancon, who went 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and 20 saves in his first full season in the Majors last year. He moved into the closer’s role when Brandon Lyon went down for the season with an injury and he appears to have a bright future, but the Astros have a growing crop of young bullpen arms, including Rule 5 pick-up Rhiner Cruz and David Carpenter, who made his debut last year. Lyon will return healthy next year and could close in the final year of his contract.

Plus, the Astros are unlikely to contend next year, so having a lights-out closer isn’t tantamount. Expect the club to get a good look next year at several arms they believe could close in the future.

The bottom line is the Astros traded one young player and received two more in return. The rebuilding continues.

Let’s take a stab at what the Astros’ Opening Day lineup could look like:

CF Jordan Schafer (L)

2B Jose Altuve (R)

LF J.D. Martinez (R)

1B Carlos Lee (R)

RF Brian Bogusevic (L)

3B Jimmy Paredes (S)

SS Jed Lowrie (S)

C Jason Castro (L)


Definitely restock your first aid kit for Lowrie!

No chance for Chris Johnson to be starting 3B?

Sure, there’s a chance, especially if the Astros trade Carlos Lee. But this is my best guess at this time.

Do you think it would be possible to trade Lee? It doesn’t seem like anyone would be foolish enough to take him. It would be nice but it just seems doubtful.

I like the trade,Lowrie is solid..Hope Lee is the next 1 one to leave.. nothing against Malencon tho.

Out of curiosity, why do you think trading Lee would have an impact on Johnson’s chances of starting at third?

Well, I misspoke. A Lee trade would have an impact on Wallace. I seem to lump those two together a lot.

I think the Lowrie trade is better for the Astros,they needed the everyday guy at SS, and get another young set up guy which is what the Sox will use Mark for anyway.

Any news of the rest of the team? for example the rotation and bullpen as well.

Not much other news. Astros would still like to trade Rodriguez, Myers and/or Carlos Lee, but money is a factor. There’s no shortage of live arms for the bullpen.

Where does Jason Bourgeois fit into the picture?

Bourgeois is coming to compete as a backup outfielder.

I hope to be wrong but I’m not convinced. We gave up someone who at least will be an above average reliever for a few years to come for an injury laden ss and an unproven starter. Go Stros, is it spring yet?

I understand your point. But the Astros have a growing number of young arms coming up and really needed a SS. Jonathan Villar won’t be ready next year, and Lowrie could fill a void at third base down the road if there’s issues. To trade away a young arm and get two players in return, including a starting position player and a possible starter, is a good trade. But only time will tell for sure.

Is Altuve a shoo-in to start at 2B? Although his potential is there, it seems like he has little discipline at the plate. If he is willing to swing at anything again in 2012, big league pitchers may make it too difficult for him to succeed. Five walks in over 200 plate appearances for a guy his size, just doesn’t give him a competitive OBP in MLB.

As of now, Altuve is a shoo-in. He’s going to have to get on base at a higher clip to keep his job. He’s worn out Minor League pitching and was tearing it up in Venezuela this winter. He’ll need to show he’s ready to hit at the Majors now.

Well, we’ll see. Just be sure an tell those backups to work hard and stay sharp. From what I read on the Red Sox blogs they will likely get a lot of playing time while Jed is recovering for the many injuries he is likely to suffer during the coming year. But they were pretty upset over the loss of Weiland, so maybe there’s the nugget in this trade. Don’t mean to start my Luthnow relationship on the negative, but I’m still hurting from the AL thing. Let’s just hope for the best.

Yeah, I understand. Lowrie is injured a lot, but hopefully he can stay on the field for more than 100 games.

Still see Castro there on opening day?

Castro said he would be ready for Opening Day, so barring any setbacks, my guess is he will be.

Thank goodness it’s the last year of Carlos Lee’s huge contract.

Yeah, it seems like Lee has been around forever. He’s still producing, but not like he was the first three years of his deal.

Does Chris Johnson have to earn a spot as well? I *REALLY* like Paredes, and the kid is amazing, but where do you put Johnson????

I think CJ has to come to spring camp and earn a spot. If Paredes isn’t ready or if CJ knocks the cover off the ball in spring, he’ll make the club.

Doesn’t seem likely that Castro will be ready to start on opening day at catcher given the suggested timeframe of his recovery. Are you hearing differently?

Castro told me on Monday he thinks he’ll be ready for Opening Day.

any chance we sign jimmy rollins? or is that a big LOL🙂

No chance. The Astros aren’t spending big free agent money and they just got their starting SS in Lowrie.

i was obviously joking there Mr.T!!! I’m actually glad that were starting the rebuilding but wish we would have started back in 2007 or rather after the Biggio and bagwell decade ended. I’m really looking forward in seeing all the magical changes that will come with our new owner. Keep up the great work Mr.Taggart!!!!!!!!!

Well, at least it’s not another trade with Philidelphia!

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