In what is sure to be just the first of many moves this trade season, the Houston Astros kicked things off by adding Oakland A’s starter, Scott Kazmir. The left-handed pitcher who was signed to a bargain of a deal back in early 2014, has had another fine season in 2015. Carrying a 2.38 ERA, 101:35 K:BB, and a 1.085 WHIP, Kazmir will be an excellent addition to the Astros’ rotation.
Despite the Astros’ impressive start to the season, things have fallen apart a bit in recent weeks. That of course hasn’t been helped at all by the fact that the Los Angeles Angels have won 16 of their last 20 games. So with things turning a bit sour at the end of the first half (they lost 6 straight to close it out), the Astros have been rumored to be in the market for another starter for some time.
This move is really a perfect addition for Houston and GM Jeff Luhnow. While teams like the Dodgers, Cubs, and Yankees are sure to be in the market for some big name pitchers, the Astros moved quickly to pick a reliable arm at a relatively cheap price. Giving up 20-year old catcher Jacob Nottingham and 22-year old righty Daniel Mengden is probably the cheapest a prominent starter will be traded for at this deadline. While Nottingham has had an excellent season in High-A ball for the Astros and projects as a major leaguer, Kazmir is well worth the price.
Consider the following about Kazmir:
First, he’s been absolutely dominant against AL West opponents this season. He’s posted a 0.99 ERA against his divisional rivals this season. That’s a nice sign for the Astros in itself, but consider that 35 of the Astros remaining 66 games are against division opponents. Suddenly, that number becomes even more compelling a reason to have Kazmir.
While this move isn’t as sexy as trading for Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, it’s the right move for the Astros. For a team that hasn’t made the postseason since 2005, adding a guy like Kazmir could propel this team back to October. The Astros already have a solid rotation, ranking 14th in the MLB in ERA at 3.96. But there are definitely some questions in the rotation once you get passed the ace, Dallas Keuchel.
Letting the 34-year old Roberto Hernandez, formerly known as Fausto Carmona be a regular starter on a playoff team is not a good idea. Scott Feldman has been mediocre at best all season, and may be better suited for long relief at this point. And while Lance McCullers has been phenomenal this season, he’s just 21 and who knows how long he can keep this up for at this level.
So while the Astros already had a solid rotation on paper and improved quite a bit today, they may not be done wheeling and dealing. If Luhnow and the rest of the front office really want to make a substantial push this season, they could still be in the running for a Cueto or Hamels. For now though, the team should be pleased with its most recent acquisition.