The Trade Deadline this year had been a cold war, with teams staring each other down and daring one another to make the first move. Perhaps as we all should have expected, the Astros launched first, acquiring Houston native Scott Kazmir from the Oakland A's for two prospects.
It's a deal that makes a ton of sense for the Astros. While they are third in the American League in runs allowed, they have gotten underwhelming performances out of three-fifths of their current rotation. Collin McHugh and Scott Feldman (who, admittedly, had been hurt), have struggled, and 23 year old Vincent Velasquez's performance has not matched his underlying stats. For now, Kazmir probably replaces Velasquez, with the youngster heading back to the minors.
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING
And it's a damn good replacement too. Just two and half years ago, Kazmir was wandering in the baseball desert. He pitched just 1 game from 2011-2012. He had a 5.94 ERA in 2010. But since then, he has been fantastic for the Indians and the A's, posting a 3.44 ERA (110 ERA+), and striking out 427 batters in 458 innings. His former control problems are entirely behind him and he has become fantastic at limiting home runs. His FIP for the last three years is 3.34. He gives the Astros a legitimate number 2 starter behind Dallas Keuchel, and a capable pitcher to start Game 1 of a playoff series if the Astros have to play the Wild Card game. He also is only signed through the end of the year, meaning he won't block any of the young pitchers the Astros have been developing.
Speaking of those young players, the A's just got two of them. Daniel Mengden, the Astros' 4th round pick in 2014, is a 22 year old starter at High-A. He has struggled greatly this year at Lancaster, but that's considered a great park for hitters in a great league for hitters. His underlying rate stats are strong, and at 6'2", 190 lbs, he has a slender frame. He throws in the low to mid-90s with a four seam fastball, and may hold up as a starter. Twenty year old catcher Jacob Nottingham is really interesting. A sixth round pick in 2013, Nottingham has made huge strides as a hitter in 2015, posting a .326/.383/.558 mark across two levels despite being incredibly young. The A's did fine here, but it's hard not to like the deal for the Astros. Both Mengden and Nottingham are good prospects, but nowhere near the top of the young talent the Astros are bursting with, and are at least two years away from making an impact at the major league level.
The biggest winner in this trade is probably Kazmir himself. Not only does he go to a contender and have an opportunity to pitch in the postseason, but as Ken Rosenthal points out, now will not have draft pick compensation attached to him when he hits free agency this winter. Signing what will almost certainly be the last big free agent deal of his career, Kazmir will be completely unencumbered and will generate a ton of interest on the free market. Meanwhile, the Astros have served notice to the rest of the American League that they will be taken seriously this October, and probably for many more Octobers to come. Shots have finally been fired, and now we get to see how the rest of the league reacts to it.