OAKLAND, Calif. — If the Red Sox don't want to dish out three or four top prospects for Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, maybe Scott Kazmir, the Oakland lefthander they faced Monday night, could be an alternative.
We know A's general manager Billy Beane normally doesn't sit still, regardless of whether his team's having a good year.
Last season was a good year for the A's, and Beane had no problem trading top prospect Addison Russell in the Jeff Samardzjia/Jason Hammel deadline deal with the Cubs. He also traded middle-of-the-order hitter Yoenis Cespedes to the Red Sox for Jon Lester.
In bad years — and it's quickly becoming one in Oakland — Beane knows it's important to replenish his farm system by being a seller at the trade deadline.
If he believes the A's can't compete, Kazmir, a pending free agent, is one of his chips.
Is Kazmir a better option for the Red Sox right now than one of Boston's three young lefties in the minors, Henry Owens, Eduardo Rodriguez, and Brian Johnson? Yes.
Kazmir is a veteran with a proven track record in the majors. He entered Monday's start coming off his worst start of the season, six earned runs in six innings at Minnesota. In each of his two previous home starts this year, he tossed seven scoreless innings.
Kazmir lasted six innings (he left leading, 3-2) and allowed two runs on four hits and four walks Monday. He held the Sox hitless for three innings, but his final three innings were tedious. He caught a break in the sixth when David Ortiz was picked off second base after a replay review.
Last season, his first in Oakland, the lefty produced pretty even home/road splits. At the pitcher-friendly Coliseum, Kazmir was 8-4 with a 3.62 ERA. On the road, he was 7-4, 3.46.
Kazmir broke in with Tampa Bay and went 55-44, 3.92 in six seasons with the Rays. His downfall came after being traded to the Angels late in the 2009 season.
As an Angel, Kazmir posted a 5.31 ERA and 11-17 record, was demoted to the minors, and was released early in the 2011 season.
He relaunched his career with the Indians in 2013, going 10-9. That brought him to free agency, and the A's gave him a two-year, $22 million deal.
Kazmir has also has plenty of experience pitching against the AL East: 8-7, 3.28 against the Yankees; 6-5, 4.12 against the Orioles; 5-6, 3.63 against the Blue Jays; and 1-2, 4.11 against the Rays.
Monday was Kazmir's 28th career start against the Red Sox, his most against any opponent. In 16 career starts at Fenway Park, Kazmir is 6-5 with a 3.89 ERA.
The Red Sox and A's recently completed a deal that sent Edward Mujica to Oakland for cash considerations. Who knows whether Kazmir's name came up then.
The lefty can still get it up to 95 miles per hour, but he's also learned to economize.
The younger Kazmir would get his pitch total up in a hurry and be out of the game by the fifth or sixth inning.
His changeup has become a huge pitch and the wisdom he's gained through the trials and tribulations of pitching in the majors has taught him a lot about hitters.
New Sox pitching coach Carl Willis will spend the next few days getting to know his personnel before starting to suggest changes in their deliveries, repertoires, etc.
Manager John Farrell has hinted at a possible change or two in the rotation, but nothing has happened.
Farrell may be waiting for Willis to evaluate the starters before he does anything.
Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson could be at risk for bullpen demotions. Kelly walked seven batters in his last outing and Masterson walked six in his last start.
The Red Sox were somewhat buoyed by Clay Buchholz’s start Sunday in Toronto, when he allowed three runs on seven hits in 6⅓ innings. Buchholz twisted his left ankle and said he should be OK for his next start, but that bears monitoring.
In a perfect world, the Red Sox' pitching concerns get worked out. But firing the pitching coach usually means more changes are in store.
The names Hamels, Cueto, and Kazmir will be talked about a lot the next few weeks. Hamels is available now.
The same could be said for the Reds' Mike Leake. But the Sox likely will take their time before making a big move.
David Price, Jordan Zimmermann, Doug Fister, and Samardzjia are likely not going anywhere.
The Milwaukee Brewers' tandem of Matt Garza and Kyle Lohse could also be moved.