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.