Houston is going for it: Astros acquire left-hander Scott Kazmir from A’s

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Houston just made the first big splash of trade deadline season, acquiring left-hander Scott Kazmir from Oakland to bolster the rotation in exchange for minor leaguers Jake Nottingham and Dan Mengden.

Kazmir went from 22-year-old All-Star and Rays phenom to totally out of the big leagues in 2012, but resurrected his career with the Indians in 2013 and has been brilliant for the A’s since signing a two-year, $22 million deal as a free agent last offseason. Kazmir posted a 3.12 ERA in 50 total starts for Oakland, including a 2.38 ERA and 101/35 K/BB ratio in 110 innings this season with a big payday via free agency waiting around the corner.

He’s a legit top-of-the-rotation starter and now pairs with Astros ace Dallas Keuchel, who was arguably the AL’s best pitcher in the first half. Houston is pushing some of their chips into the middle of the table after going from rebuilding to contending much more quickly than expected, starting the season 53-43 after losing 92, 111, 107, and 106 games during the past four years. They have tons of young talent headlined by rookie shortstop Carlos Correa, the Astros lead the league in homers and are third in runs scored, and now they have a pair of excellent southpaws atop the rotation. General manager Jeff Luhnow and company are going for it.

Neither minor leaguer the A’s received for Kazmir is considered a top prospect, but that’s to be expected given his impending free agency in two months. Nottingham was a 2013 sixth-round pick who struggled in his first two pro seasons, but the 20-year-old catcher/first baseman has hit .326 with 14 homers and a .941 OPS in 76 games at Single-A this year. Mengden was a 2014 fourth-round pick who’s pitched well at Single-A this season as a 22-year-old, throwing 88 innings with a 3.46 ERA and 84/26 K/BB ratio.

Next up for the A’s: Trading fellow impending free agent Tyler Clippard and Ben Zobrist.

Oakland Athletics donate $100,000 to Black organizations

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As the United States experiences another night of protests against police brutality, the Oakland Athletics released a statement. Many sports leagues and individual teams released statements today — though not MLB nor most of its teams, interestingly — but the A’s went further than most. Their statement:

We are heartbroken and saddened by the inequities that persist in this country and the impact felt in our community. We stand in solidarity with the Black community in Oakland and beyond against racism and injustice. We will continue to support local organizations by donating $100,000 today to the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce, Oakland NAACP, and 100 Black Men of the Bay Area, who work tirelessly to serve the needs of the Black community.

Most organizations’ statements were so vague as to be meaningless, so it is nice to see the A’s not only acknowledge the problem, but put their money where their mouth is as well.

That being said, there is still some room for improvement. First, it is important to acknowledge what, exactly, the “racist and injust” inequities are. George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, the latest extrajudicial killing of a Black man at the hands of police. That’s why there have been protests across the nation for the last week. These statements, if they are to have the impact intended, need to explicitly mention police brutality against Black people. This is unquestionably a time to take sides and the lack of specificity benefits those doing the oppressing.

Second, what other actions will the Athletics take to show solidarity? The team had a “Law Enforcement Day” scheduled for August 2 this summer. Given recent events, would that have been canceled if there were a normal season? Will they hold Law Enforcement Day if an altered 2020 happens, and will they hold such events in the future? Will they contract with local police departments for security? If the Athletics’ solidarity begins and ends with a simple cash donation, the organization is just paying for good P.R.

The A’s should absolutely be applauded for their financial commitment to good causes. But there are always ways to do better.