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Scott Kazmir Rumors
Though the Giants have had a rough start to the season — their 4-9 record has them at the bottom of the NL West — new GM Bobby Evans isn’t overly concerned yet, and an early-season trade for reinforcements is unlikely, he tells the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. “At this point you’re just going back to players that were offered you before that you didn’t deal for,” Evans explains. “Players who some teams are still trying to move that you took a pass on.” Injuries have already been a problem for San Francisco, who saw Hunter Pence go down with a broken forearm in Spring Training and have already placed both Matt Cain and Jake Peavy on the 15-day disabled list. Cafardo notes, however, that in all three of the Giants’ recent World Series runs, midseason acquisitions such as Cody Ross, Marco Scutaro and Peavy have played integral roles (I’d add Pat Burrell‘s name to that list as well), and this year will likely be no different if the Giants are to ultimately turn things around.
Here’s more from Cafardo’s weekly Sunday Baseball Notes column…
- The Red Sox are in a catch-22 with Allen Craig, writes Cafardo. His poor 2014 performance has reduced him to a bench player, and no team is currently making much of an effort to acquire the first baseman/outfielder. However, if he doesn’t play much, he’s unlikely to look any better and boost his trade value.
- Right-hander John Lackey is hopeful that the Cardinals will approach him about a contract extension, Cafardo reports, but the team is currently thrilled to have him at just the league minimum. Lackey’s preference may be to remain with the Cardinals, but he’ll likely pitch in 2016 whether it’s in St. Louis or elsewhere, as he recently told USA Today’s Bob Nightengale that he wouldn’t be pitching this year if he didn’t plan to play beyond 2015.
- One general manager who has inquired recently tells Cafardo that the Phillies‘ asking price on Cole Hamels has not dropped one bit since the beginning of the season, despite the fact that Hamels has had two rough starts in his first three appearances of the year. Hamels has, somewhat incredibly, yielded seven homers in just 18 innings after surrendering only 14 in 204 2/3 frames last year. Of course, homer-to-flyball ratio tends to stabilize around 10-11 percent (Hamels’ career mark is 11.2 percent), and he’s currently sporting a remarkably high 36.8 percent HR/FB, so better days are almost certainly ahead for Hamels.
- An AL scout who has attended both of Scott Kazmir‘s starts this season says he’s never seen the left-hander more confident or more impressive on the mound. “Don’t know if it’s because it’s his walk year and he can become a free agent, but if he keeps this up most of the season, he’s going to make himself a lot of money,” said the scout. Of course, that’s just one scout’s take, but Kazmir has been electric to date. The 31-year-old has whiffed 18 hitters against five walks in 13 innings, and the 91.7 mph he’s averaged on his two-seamer in those two starts is up from last year’s average of 90.9, though it remains to be seen whether not that increase can be maintained.
- David Price‘s hot start to the season makes it likely that his offseason price will land somewhere in the vicinity of Max Scherzer‘s seven-year, $210MM and Clayton Kershaw‘s seven-year, $215MM pact, one Major League source opined to Cafardo.
- Former Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield is helping Frank Viola III, the son of former AL Cy Young winner Frank Viola, develop a knuckleball, Cafardo writes. Viola III was a 29th-round pick by the White Sox back in 2004, but Tommy John surgery and knee surgery derailed his career, and he retired from the game in 2010. He returned in 2014 and pitched with the Blue Jays’ Class-A affiliates, and he’s now aiming to get a look in the independent leagues as he attempts to work his way back into the game. Viola III has also worked with R.A. Dickey and Hall of Famer Phil Niekro on honing is skill with the pitch.
The latest from the AL and NL West..
- Even after moving Jeff Samardzija, the A’s are far from done, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (on Twitter). Oakland is undergoing an almost top-to-bottom, on-the-fly rebuild that could see them turning over half of their 40-man roster.
- The Athletics are not in the mode of trading Scott Kazmir, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post (on Twitter). In fact, they’re now looking to make a couple of additions. Kazmir is set to hit the open market after the 2015 season and many predicted that he would be on the block along with Samardzija.
- John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle (on Twitter) hears the Giants are not big on Korean infielder Jung-ho Kang. Apparently, SF is not convinced that his overseas numbers will translate to MLB.
- The Rockies are getting hits on outfielders Corey Dickerson and Charlie Blackmon and third baseman Nolan Arenado, but GM Jeff Bridich isn’t “supremely motivated” to move any of them, writes Patrick Saunders of The Denver Post. There have also been a lot of inquiries about Wilin Rosario, especially from AL teams seeking a DH/backup catcher, but he’s “not in the mood to just give him away.”
Here’s the latest from around the AL West…
- Padres righty Andrew Cashner “remains the top target” for the Rangers in trade talks, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Cashner comes with two years of control and with a modest price tag (MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projects him for a $4.3MM salary in 2015 through arbitration) that would provide the payroll space for the Rangers to make further moves. Cashner, a Texas native, has reportedly told friends that he would like to pitch in his home state.
- The White Sox look like the favorites to acquire Jeff Samardzija from the Athletics, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports (Twitter link). The two sides were known to have recently discussed a deal involving the right-hander.
- One AL executive predicts to Joel Sherman of the New York Post that “Billy [Beane] is going to move at least one, maybe both” of Samardzija and Scott Kazmir since both pitchers will be free agents after the 2015 season.
- The Mariners have had modest payrolls in recent years but that has changed thanks to an influx of local and national TV revenues, Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times writes. The club has been aiming for 2015 as its “Holy Grail” season when all the new TV money would be in place and the team can freely spend. Robinson Cano‘s mega-deal last winter was the first step, of course, and this offseason has seen the M’s make two more expensive moves in extending Kyle Seager and signing Nelson Cruz.
- MLBTR’s Charlie Wilmoth shared some more AL West Notes yesterday evening.
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.