Scott Kazmir trade: Astros rotation implications


Jeff Luhnow has finally drawn the line in the sand between being buyers and being sellers with a trade for left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir of the Oakland A’s. The trade represents a change in philosophy for Luhnow and the Astros in that they are now focused on today versus the future only. While I’m not going to talk much about the players the Astros traded away, I want to focus instead on the Astros rotation implications following the trade.

While Kazmir is not the number one pitcher that most fans were looking for, he is a good number two or three pitcher on this team behind Astros ace Dallas Keuchel. Being that Kazmir is left handed, the Astros might choose to insert rookie Lance McCullers Jr. in as the number two pitcher to split up the two lefties. In a sense, the Astros traded two lower ranked prospects for a number three pitcher, not a bad deal for Mr. Luhnow.

The Astros now have Keuchel, McCullers, Kazmir, Collin McHugh, Scott Feldman, and Vincent Velasquez as possible candidates for the rotation. The Astros might choose to go to a six-man rotation in September, but I find it hard to imagine that they will go in for a six-man rotation in August. The Astros already have a long reliever in Roberto Hernandez currently on the 25-man roster, so the Astros could not put Feldman there.

However, the Astros must make a subtraction to the 25-man roster to get Kazmir on the roster. The only potential players who could be demoted are L.J. Hoes, Velasquez, or Roberto Hernandez. The Astros are paying Feldman $10-million for this season and next season, so they can’t just release him. The Astros need to decide whether they need to send Velasquez down just to get occasional work at Corpus, or will he stay in the rotation. If he stays in the rotation, then Feldman would become the long man in the bullpen.

Could the Astros use a tandem pitching tag team with Feldman and Velasquez until the rotations expand to 40 players in September? This would limit Velasquez’s innings to 4-5 a game every fifth-day getting reps against major league competition. The other thing the Astros can do is put Velasquez in a power arm relief role in the Astros bullpen, which would bring much-needed heat to the Astros bullpen and limit his innings for possible playoff competition. However, it would take Velasquez a while to get stretched back out after being in the bullpen as a one inning type guy.

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Bottom line, Feldman is not going anywhere, so the decision will between Velasquez and Hernandez. With Hernandez out of options, the Astros might stall on a decision by sending Velasquez down to Corpus until after the non-waiver trade deadline July 31, and then they will have decided where to go from there. Having too much starting pitching is never a bad thing, just don’t see the Astros cutting ties with Feldman with the amount of money owed to him. One or both could be traded to solve the issues, but the Astros won’t release Hernandez unless they have to.

Next: Which pitcher is most likely traded to the Houston Astros?

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