A’s, Astros Open Market with Scott Kazmir Trade

The A’s figured 2015 would be a competitive year, and though there have been plenty of encouraging signs, at some point there’s just not enough time left to expect bad luck to reverse itself. The Astros, meanwhile, figured 2015 would be a competitive year, but maybe not this much of a competitive year, so they found themselves considering the market of short-term upgrades. So it is that a surprising A’s team and a surprising Astros team have come together on a move: Scott Kazmir is going to Houston, and now the league-wide trade market is open.

He’s not the first big-leaguer to be moved. Juan Uribe got swapped. Mark Trumbo got swapped. Welington Castillo got swapped a couple of times. But this is the first real deadline move, with the A’s conceding that it’s time for them to sell. Kazmir’s a free agent in a few months, but the Astros weren’t turned off by that. If anything, they were seeking that out. Rentals tend to cost less, and Kazmir provides important rotation insurance. The guys the A’s are getting are named Jacob Nottingham and Daniel Mengden. You’re probably not familiar with either, but that doesn’t mean the A’s just got robbed.

These things tend to be written in halves. We’ll start with the Astros half. The Astros are well within striking distance of the Angels in the AL West, and they’re five games clear in the wild card. Because of the situation, the Astros’ priorities have shifted more toward the short-term, but it’s still a long-term-thinking organization, so Houston wasn’t looking to make a farm-burning blockbuster. They’ve openly talked about their pursuit of a starting pitcher, going back the last few weeks.

Dallas Keuchel is great. How great do you think Dallas Keuchel is? He’s better than that! And Lance McCullers has been great, but he might be running out of innings, having thrown about 200 combined over the previous two years. Collin McHugh isn’t what he was in 2014, and Scott Feldman has been hittable, and on and on. If McCullers could be counted on down the stretch, there wouldn’t have been so much of a need. But the Astros wanted to be proactive.

Kazmir helps them now, and Kazmir should help them in the playoffs, assuming they get that far. Kazmir has established beyond any doubt that he’s good again. And he might never escape the injury questions, but this year, he’s made his turns. Last year, he started 32 times. The year before that, he started 29 times, and another time in the minors. Do not exaggerate Scott Kazmir’s fragility. He’s been able to keep himself together.

Based on updated projections and depth charts, the rest of the way Kazmir makes the Astros just about one win better. He improves their playoff odds from right around 70% to just shy of 80%. Obviously these are just estimates, and we could never know the real effects ahead of time, but Kazmir supports a rotation that might’ve been destined to become increasingly shaky, and he’s a No. 2 starter in the postseason, an adequate sort between Keuchel and whoever might be third.

It’s worth noting that, since the start of last season, Kazmir has allowed a bottom-10 rate of hard contact, which is good, for a pitcher. (Keuchel has the lowest rate among qualified starters.) It’s also worth noting that Kazmir is from Houston, which could give the Astros a leg up if they want to try to bring him back. I’ve heard talk the Astros remain an undesirable organization to play for, and while winning changes that some, reputations are sticky, and a lot of players would prefer to play somewhere else, given that option. I don’t think the Astros traded for Kazmir because of his local ties, but I also imagine it was some kind of factor. In that way, Kazmir might turn into a non-rental rental. He’s probably more likely to sign with Houston than the majority of would-be talented free agents.

We move on to the A’s half. Despite the way they started, it’s not like the A’s knew they were going to sell. A stretch of better play threatened to allow the A’s back into the race, but they’ve now alternated wins and losses for a number of weeks, failing to make up real ground. So, off the bits go. Kazmir first. Soon, it’ll be Ben Zobrist. And Tyler Clippard, and potentially more. Billy Beane doesn’t do the long-term-rebuild thing, but he is now focused on the future. For Kazmir, he didn’t get a preseason top-100 prospect. He didn’t get a preseason top-200 prospect.

But he did get a pair of prospects, with higher stock than they had a few months ago. The better of the two appears to be Jacob Nottingham, who’s had a breakout 2015. It’s important to note both Nottingham and Daniel Mengden have played only in the lower levels, so in that sense they’re a ways off, but these could be two quick movers, and Nottingham has the higher ceiling.

I chatted with Kiley, and you can read his prospect breakdown here. He’s got more of the details, and the insight into why these players are rising. But Nottingham isn’t hard to figure out — he’s a catcher, who doesn’t embarrass himself, and he’s hit about 30% better than average. There’s power there, and improving contact skills, and I want to show you a spray chart from MLB Farm. Nottingham’s 2015:

Jacob Nottingham

I know we’re talking A-ball, here, but Nottingham is a right-handed hitter, and, look at what he’s done to the opposite field. He isn’t just about his pull power. He’s shown the ability to drive the ball the other way, and that bodes well for his offensive future against more advanced competition. Even if Nottingham doesn’t stay behind the plate, he has a developing big-league bat, and it’s not like we’re talking about Matt LeCroy. He could be a real catcher with real offense.

Mengden is a lower-ceiling collegiate arm with multiple pitches, none of them thought to be plus. Injury issues behind him, he’s generated about a strikeout an inning, doing his damnedest to survive the miserable Cal League. For Oakland, this is a familiar sort, and though Mengden’s still in single-A, he could rise to the majors fast, occupying a slot in the back of the rotation. There’s only so much development for him to do. He’s reasonably close to being good enough.

Nottingham is the prize. Because Nottingham didn’t show up on any big prospect lists or midseason updates, this might feel like a light return, but Kazmir’s also a second-tier starter, so no one’s clearly getting shafted. Kazmir’s a pretty good pitcher. Nottingham’s a pretty good prospect. What once looked like an extreme seller’s market has become more buyer-friendly, so that worked to Oakland’s disadvantage, but it also helped them some to strike first. Now everyone else gets a chance to respond. Now a fair value has been set. Now a dozen teams can call on Ben Zobrist, understanding better than ever that he is, indeed, available, and going to go somewhere in the next week and a half.

It’s a bittersweet occasion for the A’s. It’s an occasion once thought almost unimaginable for the Astros. The Houston Astros are buyers, and they just bought. We already knew they were in the hunt for a number of months, but if nothing else, this is symbolic.

We hoped you liked reading A’s, Astros Open Market with Scott Kazmir Trade by Jeff Sullivan!

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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donito
Guest
donito

“I’ve heard talk the Astros remain an undesirable organization to play for…”

Without names, could you give a specific example of this?

What do the Astros do, that other teams don’t do, that makes playing for them on a day to day basis less desirable?

Dave Cameron
Member
Member

Multiple players were openly critical of the organization’s implementation of shifts. Luhnow has admitted that they didn’t communicate well enough with the players about these changes, and it rubbed a number of them the wrong way.

Ryan Vogelsong took some shots at the Astros after their deal fell through over the winter due to their interpretation of his physical.

Multiple free agents reportedly took less from other organizations than the Astros offered them this winter.

Confused 90% Wrong 10%
Guest
Confused 90% Wrong 10%

Didn’t most of this happen before the season?

I would expect the free agents took less money to play for a better team, rather than one that was jazzed about not losing 100 for the first time since 2010. This would make more sense to me rather than taking less money because the front office didn’t communicate well enough about the implementation of the shift.

I’m sure you are much more knowledgeable about how players view organizations than myself. But I’m also curious if most of this is in the past or did the front office do some more shit to piss off players? Hopefully it is stuff in the past(I’m a fan, if you couldn’t already tell) and the opinions should be swaying with the record.

Jim S.
Guest
Jim S.

As a former sports writer, I can guess that Dave isn’t telling you all knows because he can’t. If you are an insider, you have to protect your insider friends. But you can be sure Dave had a reason to say it that way.

Confused 90% Wrong 10%
Guest
Confused 90% Wrong 10%

That is what I assumed when I read the article. But Dave’s comment on the OP seems to suggest he is referencing common knowledge information. Things that were magnified when the on the field product was so horrific, and I assumed would blow over once the winning started.

I just have a hard time believing that those blunders are the reasons FA signed for less elsewhere. Like if the Astros won 90 games every season since 2010, I feel like the Astros could have landed aforementioned free agents. I have an even harder time believing that those past ‘blunders’ would make a free want to sign elsewhere for less.

So you absolutely could be right that Dave want’s to protect is in with his inside friends, but wouldn’t he just say that?

Jim S.
Guest
Jim S.

No, you don’t give out information and then tell people it is incomplete. Besides, Dave figures you are smart enough to read between the lines.

JS
Guest
JS

So Jim S., you are saying reporters are purposefully not reporting the truth? Just one more reason not to trust the media.

Confused 90% Wrong 10%
Guest
Confused 90% Wrong 10%

Dave figures I’m smart enough to read between the lines, well there’s his first mistake.

But honestly, what he said in the article was along the lines of, some of my people on the inside say Astros remain an undesirable team to play for. Which I think was what you are talking about and after reading the article myself, I was perfectly happy with leaving it at that.

His comment to the OP asking for specific examples was where I wanted clarification because he brought up old information that was public knowledge (nothing new or insidery, which I believe he could of said, much like he did in his article). And if this is this is why free agents would shy away from the Astros, I would think winning would quickly trump these blemishes.

I apologize if I’m stilling coming off as obtuse. As a fan it is always unfortunate to hear that people don’t want to play for your team. But hopefully, there isn’t too much more than what Dave mentioned in the comment, because I think those organizational blunders can easily be over looked in the off-season if it means playing for a young, fun, winning team.

lewish
Guest
lewish

I don’t follow this whole previous few posts. It seems pretty clear that if I am going to work for someone, I will consider their reputation to some degree and my acquaintances may be weighted more. It is also true that as a competitor I may consider the potential to compete more heavily now and in the future. There is merit to both those views and I didn’t see anything in the article that denied any of that…at least for me.

mcbrown
Member
mcbrown

Losing exacerbates a lot of reputational problems, and winning fixes a lot of them too. A couple years ago the Red Sox were a badly run organization with lousy facilities that certain people with huge contracts were ecstatic to get away from, and then they were the fun place where everyone grows a beard and gets a World Series ring. After two bad years I’m sure we’ll start hearing again about how unattractive Fenway is to free agents and how bad management’s reputation is among the players. Lather, rinse, repeat.

At least Houston has the tax advantages of Texas on its side, even if it amounts to a smaller net percentage than the media commonly suggests (owing to deductibility of state taxes, the fact that only half about half their games are in Texas, etc).

Kris
Guest
Kris

Andrew Miller had nothing but good things to say about Houston and their pitch to him. So, the worm is turning.

Also, when extreme ideas start to payoff, the boo birds quiet down.

Jross
Member
Jross

Yea, having a shitty fanbase really exacerbates things too.

Sean
Guest
Sean

So the Astros lowered their offer to Vogelsong, and that’s all I can find.
As for the shift thing, the most vocal pieces are no longer with the Astros, especially one Lucas Harrell who is currently pitching to a 5+ ERA in Korea. I wonder what noise Bud Norris will have to say about the Orioles once they offload him.

And yeah, people went to places that looked a lot more likely to win. What a surprise.

AK7007
Member
AK7007

There’s still some players who maintain general resistance to the metrics that the Astros evaluate players with. More accurately, there are players who don’t like the way that the Astros communicate, since everybody is using metrics newer than RBIs now.

Jeremy B.
Member

It didn’t involve current major-league talent, but the Brady Aiken fiasco certainly didn’t do their reputation any favors.

TangoAlphaLima
Guest
TangoAlphaLima

Going along with this, I don’t think the MLBPA took too kindly to the way the Astros were dangling call-ups in front of George Springer and Jon Singleton in exchange for agreements to long-term, team-friendly deals.

jorgesca
Member
jorgesca

I can see how those contracts can be detrimental to their reputation with prospects.

rogerclemensneedle
Guest
rogerclemensneedle

Only because the media made it open season by siding with the player. The Astros ended up being right about him, and had he taken their offer after the physical, he would be making 2-3 mil more than the deal he took this year.

Remind me whose reputation got lost in this? It certainly wasn’t the Astros.

Rugger
Guest

I think Mr. Sullivan is referring to those sour grape eaters from the recent past, whom, only Vogelsong still having a reputation intact. If he is recalling Bud Norris, Lucas Harrell, Jared Cosart, Brady Aiken, et all., I’ll take criticism from those paragons of Whinerville all day long! There still seems to be an unspoken bias against Luhnow and what he stands for and what he is trying to implement on an organizational basis (Sabermetrics, with its perceived expense of raw numbers trumping the human element), and naysayers aren’t willing to call a spade a spade. Why not ask Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus, Luke Gregerson, and Pat Neshek how they feel about being a part of the Astros organization?!