It's MLB trade deadline season! Though the past couple of weeks have been quiet, baseball had it's first big trade on Thursday with the Astros acquiring pitcher Scott Kazmir from the Athletics.
Kazmir has been one of the best pitchers in the American League this season, posting a 2.38 ERA and 3.09 FIP over 18 starts. Kazmir has an 8.3 K/9 and a 2.9 BB/9, and he's arguably on the shortlist of Cy Young candidates in the American League right now. Kazmir is also a free agent after this season.
In return for Kazmir, the Astros gave up catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitcher Daniel Mengden. Of the two, Nottingham is the better prospect. Though neither were considered a top player in Houston's farm system pre-season, Nottingham has raised his stock pretty high with a combined .326/.383/.558 line between A and High-A this year. After being drafted in 2013, his first two professional seasons saw him hit for fairly mediocre numbers in the rookie leagues.
Mengden was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 draft and has a 3.46 ERA and 1.302 WHIP this year in A ball while showing good strikeout/walk numbers. He's not particularly highly-regarded, but could turn into a decent prospect down the road.
Think back to 2008 when the Brewers traded for CC Sabathia. Milwaukee gave up their top prospect in Matt LaPorta, a couple of other pieces, and a guy who could be seen as similar to Nottingham in Michael Brantley. Of course, only one of those players actually panned out, but that's quite the haul. Sabathia, like Kazmir, was one of the better pitchers in the league that year. Sabathia, like Kazmir, was a half-season rental.
Thursday's Kazmir deal shows how thoughts have shifted in the MLB regarding such deals. It's not that the Athletics got pennies on the dollar for Kazmir -- there are good reasons to be excited for both prospects they acquired -- but the equivalent to a Sabathia deal would have been them receiving something more akin to Brett Phillips, Jacob Nottingham, and Brett Oberholtzer as a return.
So what does this have to do with the Brewers? Nothing directly, but it does give some indication of how teams see rental players in today's game. Prospects are extremely valuable commodities, and teams aren't as prone to trading them away for half a season of a player as they once were.
That's important to note, as some players the Brewers might trade are rental players. In particular, Aramis Ramirez and Gerardo Parra will be retired/free agents at the end of 2015. Both players should probably be dealt, and Kazmir being traded provides a little bit of insight on how much the Brewers might expect in return.
Certainly, neither player is likely seen to be as valuable as Kazmir. That said, Parra has been having an excellent season with a .316/.353/.512 batting line and Ramirez has turned it on recently with an .859 OPS over his last 35 games. Of course, as Derek points out, we should also note that there's a fair amount of pitchers rumored to be available and fewer batters to help bolster Mets-like offenses.
At this point, I'd expect someone similar to Mengden as the return for either Parra or Ramirez. That is to say, a guy in the lower minors who has flashed some talent but doesn't have the look of being a top prospect. Not quite a lottery ticket kind of player, but something along the lines of that. More past success, but not star-level ceiling, if that makes sense.
Right now, though, that kind of player is more valuable to the Brewers than Parra or Ramirez. Ramirez is retiring and Parra is unlikely to be around the next time the Brewers compete. The Brewers won't get a guy who single-handedly helps make the farm system better, but they can find someone who provides strong depth on top-prospect lists. To get big returns, they'll need to deal players like Carlos Gomez or Jonathan Lucroy or, perhaps, Jean Segura.
Rental players don't have the value they used to have. Scott Kazmir helps demonstrate that. With the Brewers not trading top-line rental players, anyway, the expectations for a return on either Ramirez or Parra should perhaps be tempered a bit.