We take a look back at the Houston Astros trade for Scott Kazmir in 2015.
The 2015 Houston Astros were doing something they hadn’t done in years — compete for the playoffs. The young team, complemented by some key veterans, arrived a little ahead of schedule, but GM Jeff Luhnow decided to go for it anyway. One of those moves was to acquire pitcher Scott Kazmir from Oakland.
On July 23, the Astros acquired Kazmir in exchange for pitcher Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham. One week later, the team would make another big splash by acquiring Carlos Gomez, but we all know how that worked out. Thankfully, this trade wasn’t quite as bad.
What the Astros Got
The team needed a reliable arm to pitch behind Dallas Keuchel in the rotation, and Kazmir, a Houston area native, was that guy. He was a rising star with Tampa in the mid-2000s before injuries and inconsistencies derailed his career. But he underwent a renaissance and was an All-Star in 2014. At the time of the trade in 2015, he had a 2.38 ERA in 18 starts with excellent peripheral stats.
After the trade, however, things changed. He went 2-6 with a 4.17 ERA in 13 starts for the Astros as his hit and home run rates spiked and his strikeout rate sharply declined. He made one start in the ALDS against the Royals, taking a no-decision after allowing three runs in 5.1 innings. Kazmir reached free agency after the season and signed with the Dodgers, pitching only one season thanks to injuries.
What the Astros Gave Up
Mengden was a fourth round pick in 2014 out of Texas A&M and went to high school in the Houston area. He’s pitched for Oakland in parts of four seasons and owns a 4.68 ERA in 47 starts and nine relief appearances. He’s been frequently limited by injuries, only once throwing more than 75 innings in a season.
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Nottingham was later traded to the Brewers for Khris Davis. He’s appeared in 18 total major league games between the 2018 and 2019 seasons, totaling a .231/.355/.385 batting line in 31 plate appearances.
The Final Verdict
The Astros got -0.1 WAR from Kazmir in his regular season outings, plus one middling start in the playoffs. The Athletics have received 1.9 WAR from Mengden, and they flipped Nottingham for Davis, who’s provided 7.8 WAR over four seasons (and, interestingly, hit .247 in four consecutive seasons). So from an on-field perspective, the A’s are the clear winners.
Oakland did a great job of selling high on Kazmir, and they got a couple of intriguing young players for him. The Astros needed a reliable pitcher to slot next to Collin McHugh in the middle of the rotation, but they didn’t really get what they were looking for in that regard.
So this trade is a clear win for Oakland, though it’s far from a disaster for the Astros. Neither player they gave up has turned into a star, though I think they’d rather have them instead of a couple of average months from Kazmir.