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Scott Kazmir Rumors
The Athletics do not intend to deal away star third baseman Josh Donaldson despite speculation that he could be made available, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. That confirms what Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported (via Twitter) the day after the club’s season ended. However, the team will be willing to listen to trade interest in pitchers such as Jeff Samardzija and Scott Kazmir, according to Rosenthal.
Donaldson has emerged as one of the best third basemen and most valuable players in the game. While he is undoubtedly a bargain as a Super Two player with four more years of control, he will not be cheap. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects that Donaldson will land $4.5MM this year, and that number will only continue to rise.
Donaldson’s rising cost led to suggestions that Oakland may consider dealing him. But while he would undoubtedly bring back a huge return, his departure would leave a gaping hole in any plans of near-term contention. As Rosenthal notes, A’s GM Billy Beane believes the team is still primed to reach the postseason next year.
As for Oakland’s staff, deals involving pitchers on expiring contracts are obviously more palatable, though Rosenthal hastens to add that the A’s are not shopping anyone and mentions that a trade deadline deal (if the team falls out of contention) could be the likelier outcome. Both Samardzija (projected $9.5MM arb salary) and Kazmir ($11MM salary with an additional $2MM luxury tax hit for his signing bonus) are cheap for their recent results, and the former in particular would be a popular trade target. In fact, MLBTR’s Steve Adams explained in his recent outlook for the A’s offseason that a deal involving Samardzija or Kazmir could make a good bit of sense.
JAN. 20: MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has the specifics on Kazmir's contract (Twitter link). Kazmir will receive a $4MM signing bonus and be paid $7MM in 2014. He'll earn $11MM in 2015, and his contract contains a clause that gives him a $500K bonus if he's traded.
DEC. 4: Though they have plenty of in-house rotation candidates, the Athletics clearly consider Scott Kazmir to be superior to many of them. Oakland officially announced today that they have signed the left-hander to a two-year contract that is reportedly worth $22MM. Kazmir is represented by the Legacy Agency.
Kazmir, who turns 30 next month, reemerged as a legitimate Major League starter in 2013 after a two-year hiatus from significant big league action. After pitching to a 5.54 ERA in 299 innings from 2009-11 and seeing his average fastball velocity drop below 87 mph, Kazmir returned with a 92.5 mph heater and posted a 4.04 ERA In 158 innings for the Indians. He averaged 9.2 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings to go along with a 40.9 percent ground-ball rate. Sabermetric stats like FIP (3.51), xFIP (3.36) and SIERA (3.45) all pegged Kazmir as significantly better than his ERA would otherwise indicate. Because he did not receive a qualifying offer from Cleveland, Kazmir's agreement won't require the A's to sacrifice their first-round pick.
Kazmir's $22MM guarantee falls just $1MM shy of Tim Hudson's two-year, $23MM deal with the A's Bay Area rivals — the San Francisco Giants. Oakland was said to finish as the runner-up in that sweepstakes. Kazmir's guarantee and their unwillingness to top the Giants' offer to Hudson suggests that this could be the highest the A's were capable of going in their pursuit of a pitcher.
The Kazmir signing likely puts an end to Oakland's interest in a reunion with Bartolo Colon. Kazmir figures to join a rotation that includes Sonny Gray, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and one of Tommy Milone, Dan Straily and Brett Anderson. Anderson, who makes $8MM in 2014 and has a $12MM option for the 2015 season, appears to become a prime trade candidate as a result of this signing (if he wasn't already).
Kazmir's contract continues the upward trend we've seen for free agent starting pitcher salaries this offseason. Prior to season's end, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes projected a two-year, $16MM contract that may have seemed aggressive at the time but still fell short of his ultimate guarantee. Agent Brian Peters of the Legacy Agency did well to secure such a payday despite his client's spotty history.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the agreement was close (on Twitter), and Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that it'd be a two-year contract (Twitter link). Jim Bowden of ESPN and MLB Network Radio broke the news of the two-year, $22MM agreement (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here's the latest from the American League West:
- Rangers GM Jon Daniels says the club is still looking for a durable backup catcher, reports T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Though the recent spate of catcher moves took away some hypothetical options, Daniels said that "nobody has come off the board that we really pursued." Sullivan notes that Kurt Suzuki is one player in whom Texas has interest.
- In looking to add a backstop, the Rangers were close to adding J.P. Arencibia via trade before he was non-tendered by the Blue Jays, Sullivan reports. But the club did not want to add Arencibia unless it could work out terms on a new deal, and ultimately that did not happen. He joins Suzuki as possible free agent options for Texas.
- The Athletics' signing of left-handed starter Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22MM deal kicked off a flurry of big moves for the A's. MLB.com's Jane Lee provides a summation of the considerations that brought him to Oakland, with Kazmir saying he loves the team and fan base and looks forward to throwing in the Coliseum. For GM Billy Beane, the club liked Kazmir's stuff, restored fastball velocity, overall body of work in 2013, and young age (29). Though Kazmir's up-and-down career trajectory might have scared off some clubs, Beane says that he views Kazmir's "character-building experience" of getting back to a high level of performance as a positive.
- Before Phil Hughes decided to take a three-year deal with the Twins, the Angels made him an offer of a "nice one-year deal," reports Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News (via Twitter). As FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal noted in discussing several of MLB's recent moves, baseball sources believe Hughes could have landed up to $9MM or $10MM on a one-year deal, though another source told Rosenthal that no offers of that magnitude had actually been made.
- Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik declined to comment on whether or not the club is pursuing Robinson Cano, reports Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times, saying that the club is keeping its talks "in house" but has "a lot of dialogue going on a lot of fronts." Talking generally about offering long-term deals, Zduriencik indicated that the club prefers to minimize risk but must "adapt to the market." While saying he would "like to add three" bats to the club, the Mariners GM noted that the club would still also be interested in adding "another starting pitcher" or even another pen piece.
- Ultimately, Zduriencik confirmed the widespread view that Seattle is looking to add impact to its roster. "It was a clear goal of ours to get us to a point where we would have young and inexpensive players throughout the line-up and I think we've accomplished that goal," said Zduriencik. "I always felt there would be a time where [we] would have to augment this club. I think we are at that time."
The Twins agreed to sign Phil Hughes to a three-year, $24MM deal on Saturday, which would have been the largest free agent expenditure in their history had they not committed $49MM to Ricky Nolasco a few days prior. I don't think anyone would argue that the Twins needed to add a pitcher or two like Hughes, who has shown promise in his career and has yet to turn 28. We know Hughes will be better away from Yankee Stadium, but it's hard to say how much better, as he's an extreme flyball pitcher no matter where he goes.
Hughes had a serious bout of shoulder inflammation in a lost 2011 season, but he's otherwise shown good health even if he's not an innings guy. Left alone to take his turn every fifth day in a smaller market, with the security of the first multiyear deal of his career, it's feasible that Hughes could put up 180 innings of 4.25 ball. That would be good value for $8MM a season in today's market. I found Hughes' decision to go for a three-year deal coming off a bad season to be an interesting one. Prior to free agency, we've seen more and more young players choose multiyear security over maximizing their dollars going year to year. I'm guessing Hughes would have signed one of those types of arbitration-year extensions after 2010 had he been with a more willing team. Some pitchers will bet on their talent with a straight one-year deal and get right back out on the market, accepting the added pressure of having free agency looming again. Others, like Francisco Liriano last offseason, hedge their bets with a two-year deal. Hughes went for the comfort of three years, made possible in part by his youth compared to the typical free agent.
Scott Kazmir is an example of a pitcher who hedged his bet, by signing a two-year, $22MM deal with the Athletics. It seems likely that one year at $12-13MM was available to him. But as someone who hadn't had big league success since 2008 prior to 2013, it would have been very difficult for Kazmir to eschew multiple years in an attempt to maximize his career earnings. As it stands, Kazmir did much better than the two-year, $16MM contract I guessed in September. As a relatively young southpaw who returned to throwing hard and missing bats this year, Kazmir was a free agent you could dream on. And teams love to dream in free agency, where in a limited market certain players start looking better and better. Only in free agency can a team wipe out three or four years of data suggesting Kazmir was no longer an MLB-caliber pitcher, pointing only to his last 158 innings to project what he'll do in the next few seasons. Kazmir still seems like a wild card for 2014-15, but $22MM is not a huge commitment for an MLB team these days.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that the Athletics offered the same two-year, $22MM contract to Tim Hudson prior to his two-year, $23MM agreement with the Giants.
- That Kazmir signed for two years and $11MM annually speaks to the expectations of Bartolo Colon, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Colon feels he can get multiple years at a higher annual value, according to Passan.
- Kazmir's agreement firmly takes the Athletics out of the mix for Colon, a source confirmed to Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link).
- The Angels remain interested in Bronson Arroyo but the Dodgers aren't really in the mix, a source tells Mike DiGiovanna of MLB.com (on Twitter). However, the source adds that the market for the veteran hasn't really "heated up" yet.
- DiGiovanna adds that the Angels are expected to clear more than $10MM in payroll by non-tendering Tommy Hanson, Jerome Williams and Chris Nelson, which should allow them to pursue a free agent starting pitcher (Twitter links). DiGiovanna also mentions that Kevin Jepsen's status is still up in the air at this time and there's no decision on whether or not to tender him a contract.
- Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register tweets that one of the reasons Joe Smith signed his three-year deal with the Angels is that his wife works as a sports radio host in Orange County.
- In a harsh review of today's Willie Bloomquist signing by the Mariners, Dave Cameron of Fangraphs and the U.S.S. Mariner writes that Bloomquist "is Nick Punto minus all the things that make Nick Punto valuable." As Cameron points out, they're comparable hitters but Punto provides more baserunning and defensive value. However, Seattle paid nearly double the price for Bloomquist that Oakland did for Punto.
1:06pm: MLBTR's Tim Dierkes reports that it will be a straight two-year deal with no options for additional seasons (Twitter link).
1:04pm: Kazmir's deal will be for two years when it is finalized, tweets Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.
This past season served as a rebirth for Kazmir, who returned to the Majors after throwing just 1 2/3 innings in 2011 and not pitching at all in the Majors in 2012. Kazmir posted a 5.54 ERA in 299 frames from 2009-11 but posted a solid 4.04 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9 in 158 innings last season. His average fastball velocity of 92.5 mph was his best since 2005.
In his free agent profile of the resurgent Kazmir, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes projected that he would land a two-year, $16MM contract on the open market.
The Orioles have been one of the most mentioned teams on MLBTR with the club trying to decide whether to extend or trade Matt Wieters and approaching the Cardinals about a J.J. Hardy-Shelby Miller trade. Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com weighs in on those and other topics in a "Because You Asked" column:
- The Hardy-Miller talks were just preliminary, but not unexpected because of the Orioles' quest for starting pitching and the Cardinals' need for a shortstop. Kubatko sees the O's acquiring a starter and keeping Hardy.
- Wieters is not untouchable and the Orioles are willing to trade him, but are not feverishly shopping the catcher. Financial constraints are compounding the Wieters situation, as the front office is trying to figure out how to accomodate within their budget the pursuit of free agents like Carlos Beltran and arbitration raises for Wieters and others (MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects $41.2MM for eight arbitration eligible players).
- There is no progress in negotiations with outfielder Nate McLouth. The Orioles are concerned with other clubs offering him a two-year deal. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes predicted two years and $10MM for McLouth to which a person in the Orioles organization, when asked by Kubatko late in the season, responded: "Well, he won't be getting that from us."
- Kubatko suggests the Orioles swallow hard and give McLouth a two-year contract since they did so for Wilson Betemit. If re-signed, Kubatko doesn't necessarily see McLouth as the full-time starter in left, but a valuable fourth outfielder, occasional DH, pinch-runner, and defensive replacement.
- The Orioles like Carlos Beltran and see him as a great fit; but, will have to outbid some big spending teams, which they haven't done historically.
- One option worth debating to free up payroll space for Beltran, according to Kubatko, is trading Jim Johnson and his expected $10.8MM arbitration salary. The Orioles have said they intend to keep their closer.
- Kubatko spoke with someone in the organization recently who steered him away from Scott Kazmir, as if the Orioles have no interest. The O's, however, do have interest in Tim Hudson.
- There is a definite possibility Brian Roberts will return to Baltimore. If not, Mark Ellis is on the club's radar as an alternative because he won't command a three-year deal like Omar Infante.
The news is coming in fast and furious today out of Orlando, where our own Steve Adams is on the scene. Here's the very latest out of the AL East..
- The Jarrod Saltalamacchia market remains quiet, but the Red Sox would take him back on a shorter deal, tweets Gordon Edes of ESPNBoston.com. Meanwhile, Salty is looking for at least three to four years.
- More from Edes (link), who tweets that the Red Sox have used their time at the GM Meetings to gauge interest from clubs in their veteran starting pitchers, including John Lackey.
- A Yankees contingent, led by managing partner Hal Steinbrenner, met with the agents for Carlos Beltran, Shin-Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew, Brian McCann and presumably other free agents at the GM Meetings, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Meanwhile, Steinbrenner has talked with Derek Jeter about the possibility of signing a starting shortstop and he is said to understand their position. The Bombers could be loaded with shortstop options in 2014: they like Drew and a possible signing of Brendan Ryan won't preclude them from making that happen.
- Scott Kazmir is high on the Orioles' list of free agent pitching candidates, tweets Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe.
- The Red Sox need a catcher but don't want to block their prospects so Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (link) could see a two-year deal at a lofty rate for a backstop.
- Alex Speier of WEEI.com explained why Lackey's average annual value isn't calculated any differently as a result of the minimum salary that he will earn in 2015. A clause in Lackey's deal calls for him to make the minimum with the Red Sox in '15 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
- Check out this morning's collection of news out of the AL East.
Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com hears the Mets aren't considering a reunion with Scott Kazmir. Earlier today, we heard that the Indians don't expect to hang on to the left-hander as he's likely to command a multi-year pact and they're not willing to go beyond one. Here's more from around baseball..
- Royals manager Ned Yost told Jim Bowden of SiriusXM (Twitter links) that his priorities are starting pitching and second base. Yost also indicated that Carlos Beltran, Brandon Phillips, and Ervin Santana have popped up in discussions.
- Indians GM Chris Antonetti is scheduled to talk to agent Dan Lozano about two of his clients, closers Fernando Rodney and Brian Wilson, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer. Cleveland is looking into out-of-house closing options after parting ways with Chris Perez.
- Yankees GM Brian Cashman says he's looking to add "400 innings" to the rotation this winter, tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com.
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers says he has scouted Masahiro Tanaka extensively and hopes to be in the mix for him, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick.
- If Carlos Ruiz really has a two-year, $20MM offer on the table, then he probably shouldn't let it sit for too long, opines MLBTR's Tim Dierkes (on Twitter).
- Nationals assistant GM and VP of player personnel Roy Clark has the club to take a job with the Dodgers, according to Keith Law of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
The Orioles are intrigued by free agent starter Tim Hudson and have discussed him internally, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. The 38-year-old righty fits the Orioles' profile, and the O's have Braves connections in recent hires Dave Wallace and Dom Chiti.
The Orioles will keep close tabs on Hudson, reports Kubatko, as he recovers from this summer's season-ending ankle surgery. Hudson, profiled by MLBTR's Steve Adams here, has already drawn interest from the Rockies, Giants, Red Sox, Athletics, Rangers, Indians, and Royals among others, plus the Braves would like to re-sign him. Yahoo's Jeff Passan has suggested a two-year, $24MM deal for Hudson, who will benefit from the smaller requirement to sign him compared to the market's younger starters, plus the lack of a qualifying offer.
The Orioles are not likely to pursue Scott Kazmir, notes Kubatko. The O's have four starters penciled in for 2014: Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen, and Bud Norris. Scott Feldman and Jason Hammel are now free agents after contributing to the Orioles' rotation in 2013.