Re: A's acquire Jed Lowrie from Astros
The question is for the Astros: "Will this guy be on our team when we're good?" Meaning, is this guy a Brandon Phillips or Joey Votto type, or is he a Ryan Freel or Ken Griffey Jr type?
The Astros apparently decided that their window will not open for 3-4 more years because they didn't want to keep Lowrie just to play on bad to average teams.
By that rule, they did well to cash in on Lowrie, who they got for a reliever. So Mark Melancon = a young starting DH, another reliever, and a 21 year old advanced catcher. I wouldn't say they are treading water at all.
As far as payroll, I do agree that it's pretty insulting to the Houston market to provide a team without any real FA talent. I think there is a lot of sense in picking up a big name to help sell tickets. They could do that no problem.
OTOH, if they are stashing that money, then in 2015 or so, they may be able to buy whoever they want. 50 million per year over 3 years and all the sudden they have a huge money tree to pluck from for a decade.