C.J. Nitkowski: ‘Astros Have To Win Division For Trade To Mean Something’

The Houston Astros haven’t been trade-deadline buyers in awhile, but it’s a role they’re happy to renew. The Astros did that Thursday, acquiring Scott Kazmir from Oakland for a pair of minor leaguers.

Kazmir was 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 18 starts for Oakland this season. He joins an Astros team (54-43) that is just one game back of the Angels (54-41) in the AL West.

“This is going to be big for them,” Fox Sports and CBS Sports Radio host C.J. Nitkowski said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “The big thing is, they have to win the division. Nobody wants to be the Wild Card team. You never know what can happen in that one-game playoff. They have to either win the division or get past the Wild Card game to make this mean something – because Dallas Keuchel is their guy. He’s their No. 1. Collin McHugh is probably the No. 2. Maybe Scott Kazmir now slides into that position, but he really becomes useful if one, he can help them win a division, and then 2, if they can get into a playoff series.

“But you’re absolutely right,” Nitkowski continued. “It’s been a nice change of pace for the Houston Astros, who have done a rebuild really like we’ve never seen before. They just went all the way in. They were perfectly comfortable being a terrible team for a couple of years, and getting the No. 1 overall pick a couple of years in a row because they were so bad, and now it’s kind of all coming to fruition. Now they see that they are a good team. They’ve fallen out of first place because the Angels are playing better, but it’s still a really good baseball team and they’re buyers now, which is good for baseball. (It’s) certainly great for that fan base, and they become just a little bit more of a dangerous team now with Scott Kazmir.”

For the Astros, though, this isn’t about just making the playoffs. It’s about winning once they get there.

“I think you never want to think small,” Nitkowski said. “You don’t want to just be satisfied. Even when the Pittsburgh Pirates first went to the playoffs a few years ago – it was like the first time in 21 years or whatever it was – and you’re done pretty quickly, you don’t want that to happen where all of sudden it’s really deflating. For the Astros, as good as this year has been, if they don’t win the division and (then they) go to the Wild Card game and lose, it’s going to seem like it was over really fast and all that work and all the strides that they had made (would) just seem all for naught. They’re going to be around for awhile. I think it’s a team that’s going to stick around for a couple years and be competitive and could even get better because we’re going to see Carlos Correa for a full year. We’re going to see Mark Appel at some point, the No. 1 overall pick from a couple years ago. They have a lot of good young players.

“But this year’s been a good year for them,” Nitkowski continued. “You don’t want to just play for that Wild Card game. You don’t make trades to try to win a Wild Card. You don’t give up young players in your organization just to try to win a Wild Card. You do it to win a division. You do it to build your team a little bit better to try to go deep in the postseason. Certainly I think that’s what the Astros are doing here.”

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