Oakland receives two Minor Leaguers in deal with Houston
By Chandler Rome
HOUSTON -- Filling perhaps the most glaring need on a playoff-hopeful team, the Astros acquired left-hander Scott Kazmir from the A's on Thursday in exchange for Minor Leaguers Daniel Mengden and Jacob Nottingham in a deal that pairs the Houston native with fellow lefty Dallas Keuchel at the top of what suddenly appears to be a premier rotation.
After free-agent negotiations between Kazmir and his hometown team were futile two years ago, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow kept tabs on the Cypress, Texas, resident as he eventually signed with the A's and exceeded even Luhnow's expectations.
"He's actually performed as well if not better than we expected on most days," Luhnow said shortly after the deal was completed. "He's one of the top starters in the American League. We looked at a lot of his games this year, he pitches deep into games, doesn't walk guys, doesn't give up a lot of hits. I don't think he's given up double-digit hits once this whole season. He's just a performer. If you look at a guy who can plug into our situation here and make us better, he's really at the top of the list."
Kazmir joined the Astros in Kansas City on Friday and tossed seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 win over the Royals. He went 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA in 18 starts for the A's this season, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 17 of those 18 starts.
Kazmir's debut on Friday pushed Scott Feldman to Saturday and Dallas Keuchel to Sunday. Vince Velasquez, who was scheduled to start on Sunday, will be available out of the bullpen.
For Kazmir, it is a fulfillment of a childhood fantasy for the 31-year-old lefty, who said he grew up watching the "Killer Bs" of Jeff Bagwell and soon-to-be Hall of Famer Craig Biggio.
"It was [a dream], especially as a kid," Kazmir said. "I was a huge fan of the Astros growing up, being a Texan, being from Houston, watching all those guys. It's a dream come true to be able to play for the Astros."
Though Luhnow said the deal focused strictly on Kazmir's talent, he acknowledged the hometown product's return will ease his transition and augment the already growing crowds at Minute Maid Park as the Astros head toward a surprising pennant race -- a race Kazmir's addition should only tighten.
Foremost in Luhnow's mind was acquiring a pitcher who could not only help get Houston back to the playoffs, but also have success once in the postseason.
"We have every tool you can imagine," Kazmir said. "We have the speed, we have the pitching, the offense is there. It's an exciting team to watch. I'm excited to be a part of it."
Though Kazmir addresses Houston's top priority, the club might not be done dealing.
"We're going to continue to work hard to look at avenues to improve this team, whether that means bringing in another pitcher or position player," Luhnow said. "We're continuing to talk to other clubs, and our interest level remains high to explore anything that can help our club."
Kazmir can be a free agent after the season, and because he's been traded during this season, the Astros cannot extend him a qualifying offer, which means they will be unable to receive Draft-pick compensation if he signs elsewhere this offseason.
Mengden, a right-handed pitcher, was ranked No. 19 among Houston prospects by MLBPipeline.com. Nottingham, a catcher, was No. 22.
Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.