By Matt Mirro, American League Writer
The opening salvo of the Trade Deadline has finally been fired. The Oakland Athletics have traded starting pitcher Scott Kazmir to the Houston Astros in exchange for right-handed pitcher Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham. Kazmir was originally scheduled to Thursday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays but was seen hugging teammates and packing up his things in the dugout instead. The Oakland A’s official Twitter account reported the full deal.
#Athletics trade LHP Scott Kazmir to Houston for RHP Daniel Mengden and C Jacob Nottingham; recall RHP Arnold Leon
— Oakland Athletics (@Athletics) July 23, 2015
Kazmir signed a two-year deal with Oakland before the start of the 2014 season and has had a stellar season here in 2015. Through his first 18 starts he is 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA. With the A’s in fourth place in the American League West (44-52) it made little sense to hold onto Kazmir with free agency on the horizon. Trading the talented 31-year old left hander to a division rival is a little odd but nothing is out of the ordinary when it comes to General Manager Billy Beane.
As for the Astros, the team has been in need of a veteran starter to add to their young rotation behind ace Dallas Keuchel. As a Houston native it may give the Astros some leverage in the offseason when it comes times to negotiate a contract extension. Mengden had been ranked as the Astros number 19 prospect by MLB.com and has a relatively mediocre season thus far. He’s made 18 appearances (14 starts) between two levels at Single-A, owning a 3.46 ERA with 84 K’s. But since his promotion to High-A Lancaster he’s racked up an abysmal 5.26 ERA in 10 games. MLB.com ranked Nottingham as Houston’s number 22 overall prospect. 20-year-old catcher has had a phenomenal seasons between two Single-A teams, batting .326 with 14 home runs and 60 RBI in 76 games.
Kazmir might only be the start of Houston’s dealings.The team could probably look to acquiring a bat especially with first baseman Chris Carter and right fielder George Springer on the shelf with injuries. Kazmir comes at a relatively low-cost considering how reliable he has been the past three years. Now that the first name is off the board the trading action should begin to really heat up in the next few days. Houston fell out of first place the day before the Al-Star break as the surging Los Angeles Angels overcame the rising Astro club.
For a team that toiled in irrelevance for so long it/s refreshing to see such a young and exciting club go all in like this. General Manager Jeff Lunhow and ownership spent years tearing apart Houston’s roster and constructing a young, talented core piece by piece. Now that they’ve risen to a competitive position they seem ready to augment their homegrown group with proven commodities. (Reminiscent of the 1990’s Yankees or is that too premature?). For the Astros fan base, this has long been awaited.
As for the Athletics it might be time for Billy Beane to drop the “retooling” and just flat-out brand the team as “rebuilding”. After a huge Deadline last season that saw them bring in Jeff Samardzija, Jon Lester, Jonny Gomes and Jason Hammel the team collapsed down the stretch leading to a major roster reworking in the offseason. Now that the team seems set to fall into disarray once again they’ll probably look to sell off more players before the Deadline comes and goes. Impending free agents Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard are sure to be dealt before next Friday while right fielder Josh Reddick could also be shipped out of the bay area before too long.
The A’s had reached the playoffs three straight seasons before this year but it seems like that run is long over and it’s time to start from scratch again. Kazmir is certainly just the beginning of what should be a solemn final week of July at O.Co Colosseum.