Astros Trade Review: Kazmir Brought in for Playoff Run
With the trade deadline less than a month away, we continue our Astros Trade Review series reflecting on past trades. This one may be particularly of interest because an area that the Astros may look to upgrade this trade deadline is at starting pitching. With the addition of a second wild card a couple years ago it is truly a seller’s market and, thus, will make any team looking to acquire starting pitching pay a premium in the form of prospects. Last year, we paid that premium when acquiring Scott Kazmir from the Oakland A’s in exchange for two prospects ranked in the Astros top 30. Let’s take a look back at that trade from July 23, 2015.
The full trade ended up as follows:
Houston Astros Receive: LHP Scott Kazmir
Oakland A’s Side of Things
Jacob Nottingham (2016 Biloxi) – .248 avg, .312 obp, .360 slg, 7 HR, 26 RBI, 5 SB
The reason that it was so hard to watch Nottingham be involved in this trade was because of the lack of talent that the Astros have at the catching position in the minors. When you look ahead to this offseason, where Jason Castro will be a free agent, there are not a lot of obvious replacements for the Astros internally (aside from Evan Gattis full time or another shot for Max Stassi). While many scouts argue whether Nottingham can remain behind the plate, he would have been a potential replacement for Castro, as he doesn’t seem to be too far from the big show.
Since the Kazmir trade, Nottingham has actually been traded again from the Oakland A’s to the Milwaukee Brewers in the Khris Davis trade. This continues the trend of solid former Astros prospects that David Stearns, the Brewers GM and former Astros assistant GM, has picked up (in addition to Josh Hader and Brett Phillips, who we will talk about in another trade review article). Nottingham currently sits at 10th on the top 30 list of Brewers’ prospects by MLB.com.
Daniel Mengden (2016 – A’s): 1- 4 record, 3.48 ERA, 31 k’s vs. 13 bb, 1.32 whip
While Jacob Nottingham drew most of the attention when the Astros traded him to the Oakland A’s, Daniel Mengden (and his sweet mustache) has done really well for himself since being traded. This year, in the minors, Daniel went 5-1 with a 1.19 ERA between two minor league affiliates before being called up to the big club on June 11. His poor record (1-4) to start his tenure with the Oakland A’s is probably more a product of being on a weaker team as opposed to how he has pitched. Mengden comes in at 13th on MLB.com rank of the top 30 Oakland prospects.
Houston Astros Side of Things
Scott Kazmir (2015 with Astros) – 2-6 record, 4.17 ERA, 54 k’s vs. 24 bb, 1.39 whip
Well, let’s just say that Kazmir did not perform like Luhnow and co. expected. I get it, Luhnow was looking to solidify our rotation for the home stretch last year. The postseason was a reality for the first time in years, the Astros were ahead of schedule in their rebuilding and Luhnow decided to go for it. The problem is that we did not get the same quality from Kazmir that Oakland got. For the first half of the season in Oakland, Kazmir was pitching like he never had before in his career. He was 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA at the time of the trade. When we acquired him many thought that we would have a really solid 1-2 punch with Keuchel and Kazmir. Whether it was nerves from being back in his hometown of Houston, the pressure of pitching in a playoff race or no longer playing half of his games in the pitcher-friendly Oakland Colisseum, Kazmir struggled for most of his tenure with Houston.
Houston chose not to resign Kazmir in the offseason and, instead, he signed with the L.A. Dodgers. Thus far this season Kazmir is 7-3, but still has an inflated ERA of 4.37.
Overall Grade For Trade: D
It is hard to fault Jeff Luhnow for trying to improve our big club. In major league baseball, once you get to the postseason anything can happen and Luhnow tried to improve the club’s chances not only to get to the postseason but also to have success in it. Unfortunately, trades do not come with guarantees and this may be a painful one for Astros fans to watch for years to come if Nottingham and Mengden have big league success. I will never fault a GM for trading prospects in an attempt to win a World Series, but if we lose Jason Castro in free agency, we may wonder what could have been with Nottingham behind the dish.
Here are some previous trade reviews:
**Photo Credit: Ed Zurga/Getty Images**