Name: Scott Kazmir
Position: Starting Position
|162 Game Avg.||4.16||34||192||184||89||22||85||188||103||1.398||8.6||1.0||4.0||8.8||2.22|
Scott Kazmir broke into the big leagues as a 20-year-old kid for the Tampa Bay Rays (then known as the Devil Rays) and started 32 games the following season. He put up four consecutive seasons of sub-four ERA ball with Tampa and struck out a ridiculous 239 batters in 2007.
However in 2009 Kazmir started to struggle on the mound. The two-time All-Star cleared waivers before he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels on August 28, 2009. His downward spiral continued on the West Coast and his average fastball velocity dropped down to only 86 MPH, which led to the Angels granting him unconditional release on June 15, 2011 despite more than $14.5 million still owing on his contract.
With no MLB suitors calling on Kazmir’s services he found himself playing in the non-affiliated Independent League with the Sugar Land Skeeters in the summer of 2012. He followed that up with a strong performance in the Puerto Rico winter league Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente, where he saw the return of his fastball velocity. The Cleveland Indians signed Kazmir to a low-risk minor league contract in December 2012.
He started the season on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, which delayed his comeback but finally made first start on April 20, 2013. It didn’t go very well (3.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO) but rather than imploding Kazmir started to quickly regain his feel for pitching.
He had a 3.3 K/BB ratio in May, a 3.74 FIP in June and allowed only a .510 OPS in July. His average fastball velocity was over 93 MPH this year according to Brooks Baseball.
Despite pitching to a 4.04 ERA Kazmir’s FIP was a very tidy 3.51 and xFIP even better at 3.36. He struck out more than 24% of batters faced while allowing only a 7% walk rate. His ground ball rate was close to his career mark at 40.9% and BABIP was maybe even a little high at .324. End of the day his SIERA, which is becoming my favourite tool to evaluate pitchers, was in the vicinity of above average to great at 3.45.
Kazmir’s resurrection was a great story and could very well continue going into to 2014. Based on his peripherals I would feel relatively confident that Kazmir can repeat most of his success next season and going forward. However his velocity is key and at 30 it might be reasonable to expect a bit of regression from his top pitch.
According to an image that was linked to through an article on Josh Johnson at FanGraphs, players that are 29 going on 30 on average decrease their ERA 0.05 the following season. Baseball don’t fly out of Progressive Field in Cleveland at quite the same rate as they do in Toronto but overall it’s relatively neutral park. But based on the factors I discussed previously I would still feel confident in Kazmir delivering a sub-four ERA pitching in Toronto.
Tim Diekers at MLB Trade Rumors predicts that Kazmir will fetch a two-year deal worth $16 million on the open market. He did not fetch a qualifying offer from the Indians so Diekers expects interest from more than a half-dozen teams and thinks the Minnesota Twins may have the best shot to land the lefty.
Signing Kazmir would put the Blue Jays in a much different position compared to the other pitchers we’ve already discussed (Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez). His contact over two years would be approximately the same money as any of the other three would make in one season and all are expected to sign deals for at least four years.
He doesn’t provide the reliability of a Santana, the consistency of Garza or the upside of Jimenez and based on his past there’s no guarantee he doesn’t completely lose himself yet again. For some reason that seems to happen to pitchers when they come to Toronto.
At the same time if the Jays are looking for a relatively short-term deal on a player that flashes top of the rotation type stuff it could be an interesting option. GM Alex Anthopoulos mentioned Kazmir by name when he said the Blue Jays need to bring in a “comeback pitcher who unexpectedly contributes” (h/t Toronto Star). Kazmir’s season may put him outside of that category now but if the Blue Jays aren’t able to land one of the big fish from this season’s free agent class I would have no problem with bringing in Scott Kazmir for two years at $8 million per.