Oakland — It was so quiet in the Athletics’ clubhouse on Thursday afternoon, one could almost hear another trade rumor drop.
Players milled around their lockers. They sat at tables and picked at chicken and noodles. They barely said a word, but then again, not much had to be said.
Only hours earlier, in the first of what promised to be several moves before the trade deadline, veteran Scott Kazmir was dealt to the Houston Astros for a pair of young prospects.
“It felt like it just hit me at once,” said Kazmir, who exchanged hugs and handshakes before his ex-teammates dropped a 5-2 decision to the Toronto Blue Jays at O.co Coliseum. “It’s going to take some time to sink some stuff in.”
And to think that the A’s had finished 45 games ahead of the then-woeful Astros only two years ago.
“Had we done nothing at the end of the year, the reaction would have been, ‘Why didn’t you get something for him?’” said A’s general manager Billy Beane, who added, “We had to be realistic about where we were as a club.”
Which was to say fourth place, not what the A’s had envisioned months ago. But if team management had all but called it a season already, veteran Stephen Vogt was defiant that the players would not to allow that to happen.
“We still think we can win it,” Vogt insisted. “We don’t know what management thinks — that’s another matter. The players are here to win. We’ll continue fighting until the end of the year, because that’s the make-up of this team.”
Sounds like a battle cry out of the movie “Major League.’’
Without Kazmir, 31, their most effective left-hander starter, the A’s will be more hard-pressed to reach the .500 mark let alone become a contender.
This season, Kazmir has a 5-5 record, but it doesn’t speak to his effectiveness. The left-hander ranks fourth in opponents’ batting average (.213) and fifth in ERA (2.38) in the league. He allowed three earned runs or fewer in 17 of his 18 outings.
Kazmir also left an indelible mark in the clubhouse.
“He was a guy who we got a chance to know well, especially as pitchers,” said Drew Pomeranz, who made the start on short notice and didn’t last long. “You pick up a lot from a guy like that.”
Seven days remain before the trade deadline, and Beane probably isn’t done. Much speculation has centered around veteran Ben Zobrist, who, like Kazmir, is eligible to become a free agent after the season. The names of Jesse Chavez, Tyler Clippard, Ike Davis and even star outfielder Josh Reddick also have made the rounds lately.
In addition to the Blue Jays, the Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, New York Mets, New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates have scouted the A’s in recent days.
“It’s possible,” Beane said when asked if another move was on the way.
In return for Kazmir, the A’s received 20-year-old catcher Jacob Nottingham, a former sixth-round draft pick, and 22-year-old pitcher Daniel Mengden, a fourth-rounder.
Mengden wasn’t sure what to make of the move from the second-place Astros, who were in the thick of the playoff race.
“I don’t know if I should be [excited] or not,” tweeted Mengden, a Texas A&M product.
The Astros were more inclined to acquire a rental player because they would not have to part with elite prospects. While Menhaden and Nottingham have obvious potential, neither is considered to be in that class at this time.
After a brief stint with Quad Cities in low Class A ball, Mengden was promoted to Class A Lancaster in the California League, where the right-hander posted a 2-1 record and 5.26 ERA in 10 games, eight of which were starts.
A sixth-round pick in the 2013 draft, Nottingham also started the season at Quad Cities before he moved to Lancaster, where he hit .324 and four home runs in 17 games. He bats right-handed.
The Astros will assume the remainder of Kazmir’s $11 million salary this season. He also will receive a $500,000 bonus from the A’s as a result of a trade clause.
The Astros were interested in Kazmir two years ago, but the A’s beat them to him with a two-year, $22 million offer. This time, they were able to land him after what Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow described as intense talks that involved several different players and combinations thereof.
“Our pitching staff got ambushed today,” Vogt said. “Our whole team got ambushed. But that’s the way it is in this business.”