In this, the golden age of Ninja General Managers, fans love to imagine a world in which other teams are reluctant to trade with their next-level GM. Nobody wants to get exploited by the wunderkind in [YOUR CITY HERE], what a problem for the future!

Judging by their recent track records, Billy Beane of the A’s and Jeffrey Luhnow of the Astros certainly qualify as the kind of GMs to be wary of, to keep at a safe distance. They know your farm system better than you do, so proceed with caution!

Should these two teams come together to make a trade, sparks are sure to fly! One guy will end up a winner and one guy will end up the loser because that’s how trades work – binary transactions best evaluated as the ink dries on the official trade agreement.

Despite the dire implications, the Astros and Athletitics came together on a trade last night, with the Astros shipping middle infielder Jed Lowrie to the A’s along with Fernando Rodriguez in exchange for slugger Chris Carter, starter Brad Peacock and catcher Max Stassi. The ever-elusive search for shortstops continues!

Jed Lowrie was probably the Astros best player in 2012, leading the team in WAR and hitting the second-most home runs despite playing just 97 games. Missing time due to injury is nothing new for the former Red Sock, whose next 400 plate appearance season will be his first.

Lowrie can hit a bit (from both sides of the plate!) and can play around the diamond, giving the A’s more of that valuable Raysian flexibility – standard operating procedure by any team on tight budget. As Keith Law notes in his trade wrap ($), Lowrie can push for the starting second baseman’s job or perhaps force his way in at third, all the while providing depth and insurance at short behind Japanese signing Hiroyuki Nakajima.

Fernando Rodriquez is a relief pitcher with a big fastball and not a great deal of control. If this was a video game, you would automatically assume this player was created by the AI to fill out the rosters. But it isn’t! He’s a real man who fought his way into the big leagues against insurmountable odds, making the privileged sneering of a goofy blogger seem even more offside.

The Astros get Chris Carter, who can hit the ball a mile and did so many times in 2012, clouting 16 homers in just 270 plate appearances. Lots of strikeouts and no real position make him a candidate for the right-handed side of a Carlos Pena DH platoon. Carter still figures to find time elsewhere around the diamond in the usual “he’s a DH but so is this other guy so strap on a glove, cupcake” spots. Susan Slusser reports the Astros have long been interested in Carter, which means he will do exceptionally well in Houston as that ballpark suits his strengths and the Astros seem to know what they’re doing.

P.S. The Astros totally play in the American League now, which is TOO WEIRD.

Brad Peacock was a piece of the Gio Gonzalez trade and just spent the entire 2012 season getting beaten around the Pacific Coast league, putting up good strikeout numbers but giving up far too many home runs. He wasn’t going to make an impact for the A’s and now gets a chance to…make the Astros? Give them Triple-A depth? A move to the bullpen might be in Peacock’s future.

Max Stassi was a highly regarded catching prospect who the A’s grabbed in the fourth round, giving him first round money, according to Law. Injury slowed his ascent to the Majors but the Astros have nothing if not places for young players to play.

The Astros just keep adding more and more talented and controllable players, converting Lowrie into three pieces capable of producing at the big league level to one degree or another. Much was made of the ever-shrinking nature of the Astros payroll, now slated to dip below $20 million once all pre-arb figures are determined.

A number that low is sure to attract the attention of the union, though the Astros are not exactly dumping top quality talent for nothing in an effort to cheap out. There is a plan in place in Houston – this isn’t a team which lacks funds. In time, maybe next year or the year after, the Astros will surprise some people.

Chris Carter and Brad Peacock and Max Stassi might not end up as crucial pieces on the Next Good Astros team but they are evidence of sound process and steady improvement. Sometimes the “winner” of a trade isn’t the team to receive the best player – sometimes it is better to shop in bulk rather than grabbing one high-end item sure to depreciate.

And the rest

Brad Peacock learned of his trade in the middle of driving across the country from his home in Florida to the A’s Spring Training facility in Arizona. DRAMATIC BRAKE SCREECHING SOUND in Biloxi! [Big League Stew]

Speaking of Big League Stew: congrats to our buddy Duk!


SOURCES: A ROD SAID A THING OR MAYBE HE DID NOT IN FACT SAY THAT THING [Some NY rag]

Chris Archer: probably very awesome. Sigh. [The Process Report]

The halls aren’t quite as hallowed as we are lead to believe [Davidoff]

Blue Jays draft pick Anthony Alford – sticking with football as charges against him fail to stick. What a sticky situation for the Blue Jays! /googly eyes [DJF]

Red Sox schadenfreude, the most delicious. [Over the Monster]

A day in the life of a minor league broadcaster – awesome. [Baseball Prospectus (free!)]

Great moments in vetoed trades [Fangraphs]

From theScore’s new video game blog Franchise Mode, the MLB The Show 13 trailer featuring…Wei-Yin Chen? Also: dubstep :(

Johan Santana plans to pitch in the World Baseball Classic. Good for you, Johan! [Eye on Baseball]

Julio Lugo joins Brandon Webb as players who retired yesterday despite not playing for years. [NESN]