Monday, the A's and Astros -- now American League West foes, by the way -- pulled off a five-player trade that figures to strengthen Oakland's lineup and Houston's farm system. Both of which needed some strengthening.
This seems to me a pretty fair deal. Which is to say it's like the great majority of deals, since the people who run baseball teams aren't generally stupid, and to the degree that you can judge a deal uneven upon its consummation, you might come to the conclusion that instead of being a 50/50 deal, it's 52/48 or 54/46; 60/40 deals -- assuming you had perfect knowledge of all the players involved, along with the organizational dynamics -- are incredibly rare, if not nonexistent.
- an infielder who can hit some and play just about anywhere, but has a devil of a time staying healthy; and
- a 28-year-old righty reliever with good stuff and a tendency to give up walks and home runs; there's a decent chance he won't survive a whole season in the American League, but of course with relievers you never know for sure.
- half of a pretty good Designated Hitter platoon;
- a right-handed starting pitcher, just one year removed from ranking as a really hot prospect, but now coming off a season in which he posted a 6.01 ERA in the minors and couldn't crack a suspension- and injury-plagued rotation in Oakland; and
- an (almost) 22-year-old catcher who hit 15 homers in 84 Class A games last season.
Considering the easy availability of pitchers like Rodriguez, this was essentially a 3-for-1 deal. The A's have question marks all over their infield, and among the available players on the trade market, Lowrie was perhaps best equipped to answer some of those questions. Meanwhile, he certainly didn't still figure to be both healthy and affordable for the Astros when they're ready to compete -- with the A's, by the way -- for a division title or a wild card. Leaving aside how it might look to the fans, it made ultimate sense to trade Lowrie for whatever the market might bear.
And it seems to me that three moderately talented young players is probably all the market would bear. I think the only questions is whether you'd rather have three moderately talented young players for Lowrie, or one brilliantly talented young player instead. But that assumes that some club would give up a Grade A prospect for an injury-prone infielder with no real All-Star potential. And that's probably a faulty assumption.
Both clubs did about as well as they could, doing what they needed to do.