Astros Add Lowrie, Trade Melancon To Red Sox

The Deal
First on new Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow’s to-do list: acquire viable options to play shortstop and catcher, the two most demanding positions on the field. His search continues for a catcher to cover for the injured Jason Castro, but odds are he found his shortstop in a trade with the Red Sox. Houston sent its first-year closer Mark Melancon to Boston for 27-year-old shortstop/third baseman Jed Lowrie, arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, as well as 25-year-old Kyle Weiland, a righthander pressed into service with the Red Sox last year because of myriad injuries.

Lowrie has walloped big league lefties in his career, batting .326/.385/.534 with 11 homers in 314 plate appearances, but his production versus righties (.214/.293/.342 in 606 PAs) leaves something to be desired. He’s a sound defender at shortstop who can shift to third base in the event that prospect Jonathan Villar, a defensive wizard, hits enough to earn his keep in Houston. Lowrie might have established himself in Boston had he not missed so much time with injury in each of the past three seasons.

The Astros acquired Melancon when they traded Lance Berkman to the Yankees for the 2010 stretch drive. Boston felt impelled to trade for a closer for two reasons. Firstly, they lost their own fireman Jonathan Papelbon as a free agent to the Phillies, and they’re toying with the notion of moving set-up man Daniel Bard to the rotation. And secondly, closers are fetching a pretty penny on the free agent market this winter—Papelbon pulled down $50 million, Heath Bell secured $27 million from the Marlins and even 37-year-old Joe Nathan got $14.5 million from the Rangers. Because of this trend, some teams have determined that it’s more cost-effective to trade for a ninth-inning pitcher. That’s how the Blue Jays acquired Sergio Santos and the Padres got Huston Street.

 
Astros Acquire
Kyle Weiland, rhp

Age: 25.

Born: Sept. 12, 1986 in Albuquerque.

Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Bats: L. Throws: R.

School: Notre Dame.

Career Transactions: Selected by Red Sox in third round of 2008 draft; signed June 16, 2008.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Pawtucket (IL) AAA 8 10 3.58 24 24 0 128.1 108 54 51 10 55 126 1.27
Boston (AL) MLB 0 3 7.66 7 5 0 24.2 29 22 21 5 12 13 1.66

Weiland made three critical starts for the Red Sox in September, losing two and receiving a no decision in the other while allowing 12 runs in 11 2/3 innings. Boston officials don’t fault Weiland, saying he was put in a difficult situation and undermined by shoddy defense behind him. They still see him as a potential rotation contributor in the future. Weiland has a hard sinker that sits in the low 90s and touches 96 mph. He has improved his curveball to the point where it gets swings and misses, and he has developed a cutter that makes him more effective against lefthanders than righthanders. He doesn’t tip off his changeup like he used to, though it’s still a fringy pitch. Weiland relishes pitching inside and does an excellent job of controlling the running game. When he keeps his pitches down, he’s tough to beat, but he got caught up in the strike zone too often in the majors. His stuff would play up if he moved to the bullpen. (Jim Callis)

 
Jed Lowrie, ss/3b

Age: 27. Bats: B. Remaining Commitment: Arbitration-eligible for 2012-14 seasons ($450,000 salary in 2011).

Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Boston (AL) 2011 .252 88 309 40 78 14 4 6 36 23 60 1 .303 .382
3-Year Totals .250 175 548 76 137 30 4 17 71 54 105 2 .316 .412
 
Red Sox Acquire
Mark Melancon, rhp

Age: 26. Remaining Commitment: Under club control for 2012-16 seasons ($421,000 salary in 2011).

Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Houston (NL) 2011 8 4 2.78 71 0 20 74.1 65 28 23 5 26 66 1.22
3-Year Totals 10 5 3.21 106 0 20 112 97 49 40 7 44 98 1.26

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