ESPN's Buster Olney is currently reporting on a potential deal between the Astros and Dodgers that would send Houston shortstop Jed Lowrie to Los Angeles in exchange for prospects Zach Lee and Garrett Gould. The Dodgers would be interested in Lowrie because of his ability to play both shortstop and third base, where the team has struggled immensely this year on both offense and defense.
The Dodgers primary shortstop this year has been Dee Gordon, who steals bases for the team (a league-leading 24), but does little else. Gordon is a terrible defender (-12 according to DRS, and -8.9 according to UZR) and can't hit at all (.556 OPS). At third base, LA has trotted out a multi-headed monster that has seen Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr, Adam Kennedy, and Elian Herrera all log over 100 innings at the position. Only Hairston has a non-horrendous OPS (currently .813), but he's getting a lot of time at second base lately as well.
Lowrie would be an upgrade across the board over any of those players. His 14 homers lead all shortstops in baseball, and his .839 OPS ranks second. He's also a roughly league average defender at both short and third. Lowrie is also a largely cheap, cost-controlled player, making $1.15 million this year with two more years of arbitration left under his belt. On one hand, this is the type of guy (an above average, up the middle bat) that Houston should be building around along with second baseman Jose Altuve. On the other hand, if the Astros can trade Lowrie (who they got along with Kyle Wieland for Mark Melancon, a robbery by any estimation) and get a good return for him, it would make a lot of sense to spin him off with as far off from contending as the Astros are.
Now, what about the arms that are potentially heading to Houston, Zach Lee and Garrett Gould? Lee was a first round pick of the Dodgers in 2010, and was signed away from a commit to play football at LSU. This past offseason, he was ranked as the top prospect in the organization, and the 45th best in all of baseball. Lee has spent the majority of his season at high-A Rancho Cucamonga in the hitter friendly California League, and was just promoted to AA Chattanooga of the Southern League this week. For the season, which includes one start at Chattanooga, the 20 year-old Lee has 59 strikeouts and just 13 walks in 61 1/3 innings. The notorious hitters environments of the California League plagued him, as Lee had allowed nine homers in high-A this year.
The 20 year-old Gould was a teammate of Lee's in Rancho Cucamonga, which is where he's still pitching this year. He was a second round pick in the 2009 draft, and was ranked as the team's number 11 prospect coming into this season. So far this year, Gould has struck out 72 and walked 24 in 72 innings. Gould has allowed seven homers, showing that Lee's homer tendencies are more of a product of the park than a product of the pitcher. Both pitchers are right-handed, and for an organization that's largely bare on top-notch pitching prospects, both prospects would do a lot to help the organization's rebuilding plan.
However, despite Olney's tweeting about a potential Lowrie trade, Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports heard something else: that the Astros and Dodgers were talking about Carlos Lee. Now that's a whole different animal. Lee is being paid $19 million by the Astros this year, and will be a free agent at the end of the season. He's also a ten and five player, meaning the Astros need his permission to deal him. Lee has exclusively played first base for the Astros this year, but made his home in years past in left field. A trade for the 36 year-old Lee wouldn't result in a prospect like Zach Lee or Gould getting dealt, but instead a lower level player, especially if the Dodgers pick up most of Lee's salary. The Dodgers' primary first baseman for the past few years has been James Loney, who just doesn't hit enough to play first base. This season has been awful for him, OPSing .634 with only two homers. In comparison, Lee has a .754 OPS and five homers…doesn't seem like that much of an upgrade to me personally.
To summarize, a trade for Lowrie would benefit the Dodgers immensely, and would help the Astros a lot if they were able to get a pitcher the caliber of Zach Lee back in the deal. A trade for Carlos Lee really wouldn't help the Dodgers out a ton, but would at least clear some payroll for the Astros and get Brett Wallace some regular playing time to see if they have anything resembling a regular starter with him.
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