The Houston Astros have struck first and thus begins the journey to MLB’s July 31st trade deadline. The Astros have acquired pitcher Scott Kazmir from the Oakland A’s for two minor leaguers, pitcher Daniel Megden and catcher Jacob Nottingham.
Don’t let Kazmir’s 5-5 record fool you. He has a sterling 2.38 ERA in 18 starts for a very bad Oakland team this season. I am a little surprised that this move was pulled off given that trades usually aren’t made within the same division. But this is a good deal. Kazmir joins a rotation that includes Dallas Keuchel, who started the All-Star Game for the AL earlier this month, as well as Collin McHugh who I watched overmatch the Red Sox last night. Although, then again, who isn’t overmatching the Red Sox these days? Throw 21-year old Lance McCullers into the mix and you’ve got quite the rotation.
Before the beginning of this season most folks would have thought the highlight of the season for Astros fans would be Craig Biggio’s induction into the Hall of Fame this weekend. And while plenty of Astros fans are tickled pink about that they have had plenty to cheer about. The Astros spent nearly the entire first half in first place in the AL West until they were overtaken by the Los Angeles Angels right before the All-Star Break.
The Angels are playing on all eight cylinders having won 7 in a row. But the Astros are only two games back and have one of the two AL Wild Card spots along with the Minnesota Twins (another team hardly anyone saw coming). But they need reinforcements and I think Kazmir will be a good fit in their rotation. It can’t hurt them to have another lefty to back up Keuchel.
I have no doubt Larry has seen his fair share of Kazmir during his days in Tampa Bay. When the Devil Rays were really awful they managed to put one over on the New York Mets by persuading them to give them Kazmir in exchange for Victor Zambrano. Maybe the Mets thought they were getting Carlos Zambrano. Whatever the reason, the Mets gave up their top draft pick for a journeyman pitcher and it didn’t work out well.
During his tenure in Tampa, Kazmir was named to two AL All-Star teams, led the AL in strikeouts once, and got to pitch in a World Series. But Kazmir went on a severe decline after he was dealt to the Angels in the middle of the 2009 season. In 2010, Kazmir lost 15 games and had an ERA of 5.94. When the Angels released him in 2011 his career looked to be over at the age of 27.
But Kazmir fought his back way through the independent leagues and in Puerto Rico. The Cleveland Indians took a flier on him and he proved to be a big contributor in 2013, winning 10 games as the team would earn an AL Wild Card spot. Last year, Kazmir signed a two-year deal with the A’s and won a career high 15 games in 2014.
Kazmir does become a free agent at the end of the season and he’ll probably move on again. But right now I think Houston will be the right spot for him, especially when he pitches against the Angels.