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)