The Oakland A’s, defending AL west champs, continued stocking up for immediate improvement by adding INF Jed Lowrie from the Astros for a package of prospects:

A’S GET – INF Jed Lowrie, RHP Fernando Rodriguez
ASTROS GET – 1B/DH Chris Carter, RHP Brad Peacock and minor league C Max Stassi

The A’s came out of nowhere last year to win the division over the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels, both clubs having the much more familiar high-profile talent. GM Billy Beane has worked this offseason to sieze  the moment, adding talent to a very cohesive roster in hopes of sustained success.

By adding Lowrie on the heels of the acquisition of SS Hiroyuki Nakajima, the ever-flexible A’s add even more depth. Nakajima projects to be the starting shortstop, while the versatile Lowrie, like many others on the roster, can play multiple positions. What could have been a vulnerability in the wake of losing Stephen Drew is no longer a concern.

The Astros, meanwhile, continue to get younger and cheaper. With an opening day payroll of just under $17M, the Houston ballclub enters its first year in the American League in full rebuilding mode. Long gone are the elite talent and contracts of Biggio, Bagwell, Beltran and Oswalt. In their place are the likes of Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, Bud Norris and, now, Carter and Peacock. Stassi, a fourth-round pick in 2009, played at hiA Stockton this year.

Carter with the A's in 2012

The A’s got great production from various combinations all over the field in 2012 and it led them to a last-day-of-the-season division winner. Carter, 26, was part of that mix, putting up some big power numbers in part-time duty at first base and DH. Baseball America had Carter as Oakland’s top organizational prospect going into 2010, but a couple of stints at the big league level went very poorly and the slugger slid down the rankings. 2012 was different for the prodigous power hitter as he posted a .239/.350/.514 line over 67 games, with 16 homers.  While only five of those homeruns came at the cavernous Coliseum, Houston may have a lethal right-handed weapon to go with its short left-field porch.

Peacock came over to the A’s from the Nationals before last season in the Gio Gonzalez trade. The 25-year old righty pitched for AAA Sacramento last season, going 12-9 over 28 games with 4.4 BB/9 and 9.3 K/9. In 2011 he pitched 12 innings for the Nationals over 3 appearances with a 2-0 record and a 1.083 WHIP.

Stassi at hiA Stockton in 2012

Stassi was ranked as high as Oakland’s number 4 organizational prospect by Baseball America in 2010 but progress has been slow with 2011 limited by injury to only 139 PA. In 2012, at Stockton, Stassi went .268/.331/.468 over 360 PA with 15 homeruns and 18 doubles. The 21-year old has a power bat and good defensive skills but shoulder problems have been an issue so far in his young career.

While the Astros continue to look a couple of years ahead, the A’s are trying to keep up with the free-spending Angels and the talented Rangers now. Lowrie gives them a solid bat with 16 homeruns from the shortstop position in just 387 PA in 2012. The injury bug has been a constant for Lowrie over his five big league years but along with a career-high in ABs in 2012 came the career-high HR total.

Both clubs keep on keeping on. The A’s, suddenly a power in the loaded AL west, look to strengthen the formula that made them viable in 2012. Jeff Luhnow, meanwhile, is building the Astros from the ground up. In a perfect world for the Astros, his newly-acquired talent will kick it into gear a couple of years down the road and knock the AL west crown off of Oakland’s head.

(All Photos: Steve Cummings/