Earlier today, the Astros struck the first significant trade of July, landing left-hander Scott Kazmir from the division-rival Athletics in exchange for a pair of prospects — right-hander Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham. The addition of Kazmir gives the Astros a pitcher that could potentially slot into the first or second game of a playoff series — a previously stated goal of GM Jeff Luhnow.
Here are some reactions from around the industry to the first major move of this year’s trade season…
- The addition of Kazmir won’t be the end of the Astros’ attempt to supplement the roster, GM Jeff Luhnow told reporters (via Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle). “We were having multiple conversations and those conversations haven’t necessarily stopped because of this,” said Luhnow. “…This was our top priority, was to get a staring pitcher, and we feel like we got one of the top guys on our list and one of the top guys that’s going to be available and we were able to do it in a timely fashion. We’re going to continue to look at ways to improve the club.”
- Jane Lee of MLB.com tweets that Athletics GM Billy Beane said the Kazmir talks really took off once the Astros became willing to include Nottingham in the deal.
- Astros players are happy to have Kazmir in the fold, writes the Houston Chronicle’s Stephanie Kuzydym. Jason Castro, Jake Marisnick, Preston Tucker and fellow pitcher Collin McHugh weighed in with their thoughts on not only being spared from facing Kazmir but benefiting from adding his talent to the Houston roster. Said Castro: “The mix of his stuff, his quality off-speed and his fastballs, the way he attacks hitters, I think he’s the kind of pitcher who forces guys to go after his stuff. That’s what makes him so good.”
- The Astros “paid dearly” for 10 to 12 starts from Kazmir, opines ESPN’s Keith Law (subscription required), who pegs Nottingham as a potential star if he can remain a catcher. Law notes that Nottingham has 70-grade raw power and could eventually develop into a 20 to 25 homer bat behind the plate, though his receiving is fringy. Law feels that Mengden has a chance to be a fourth or fifth starter but notes that he was expendable for Houston, as the club has a number of harder-throwing arms with more upside in its ranks. As for the Astros, they’ll swap out a replacement-level starter (probably Roberto Hernandez) for Kazmir, which Law feels will add an upgrade of at least one win.
- Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel writes that the return will look light to many people due to the low ranking of Mengden and Nottingham on most preseason prospect lists, but Nottingham was a lock to land among Houston’s Top 10 on a re-worked Astros prospect list following a 2015 breakout. McDaniel feels Nottingham has above-average power and could hit .260 or better in the Majors, making him a candidate to be an everyday catcher, albeit an offensive-minded one. He feels that Mengden has three solid-average pitches and could be a fourth/fifth starter capable of soaking up 180 innings with average results, if everything clicks.
- MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo weighed in on the trade (video link), noting that Mengden doesn’t “wow” scouts with pure stuff but features a solid four-pitch mix, with his curve and changeup trailing his fastball and slider. Mengden will jump into the Athletics’ Top 20. Nottingham was primed to make a big leap forward from his No. 22 ranking in the Astros’ system, Mayo notes, praising his ability to hit for power and average as well as his improved plate discipline. If Nottingham doesn’t stick behind the plate, Mayo feels he “might have the power profile to fit just fine at first base.”
- Evaluators now believe there’s a better-than-average chance that Nottingham will stick behind the plate, writes Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America, who notes that Nottingham is moving from an organization that’s big on catch-and-throw receivers to one that hasn’t had a problem employing bat-first options (Stephen Vogt, Derek Norris). Lara-Cinisomo, too, feels that Mengden’s a back-end starter type whose stuff could play up in the bullpen. Kazmir’s ground-ball tendencies make him a fit for Minute Maid Park, he adds, but he short porch in left field won’t do him any favors.
- ESPN’s Buster Olney reports that the Blue Jays tried to make a run at Kazmir but found the Athletics’ asking price — said to be one of the team’s top pitching prospects — to be too steep (All Twitter links). Olney also opines that the trade could be worth millions to Kazmir, as if he’d been hit with a qualifying offer, his injury history plus that draft pick compensation may have created a very difficult market for him in free agency.
- Chris Perry of SB Nation’s Crawfish Boxes writes that while the price paid to acquire Kazmir was steep, the Astros have better positioned themselves to catch the Angels atop the AL West. Mengden’s loss is more tolerable, and while the loss of Nottingham stings, the Astros’ depth allows them the luxury of moving that type of talent to acquire one of the game’s better lefties. Interestingly, Perry wonders if there are already talks of an extension with Kazmir, a Houston native, which would of course could make the trade more palatable for Astros fans.