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Scott Kazmir Rumors
As the Tigers do everything they can to run away with the division, let's check in with some of their competitors in the AL Central:
- GM Rick Hahn's plans for the White Sox are better characterized as a "reshape" than a "rebuild," according to MLB.com's Scott Merkin. "It's not in our nature to write off any season," said Hahn. "You see too many teams make fairly quick and significant turnarounds in the course of one offseason. With that said, we have some work to do."
- The Indians extended utilityman Ryan Raburn yesterday; today, Max Lom posted interview excerpts on MLB.com. Raburn noted that the team aproached him before the All-Star break about a possible extension. GM Chris Antonetti explained that the team liked Raburn as a bounce-back candidate after his woeful 2012 campaign. For his part, manager Terry Francona noted that the club's relatively low payroll means that it must rely on players like Raburn and fellow benchmate Mike Aviles to compete. (Notably, the club also signed Aviles to a multi-year contract with a club option.)
- Even if Cleveland falls out of the AL Central race, it is worth keeping an eye on the organization in the coming months. Antonetti is believed to have approached other players about extensions, reports Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer.
- Hoynes went on to note that another player who has revived his career with the Indians — lefty Scott Kazmir – has indicated that he might be amenable to a hometown discount. However, Antonetti implied that the sides have not talked about a new deal.
From earlier today in the two Central divisions, Cubs GM Jed Hoyer sat down for a podcast with ESPN's Buster Olney, the Brewers are looking to the future and Jake Peavy is willing to be traded anywhere if the White Sox see fit to move him. Here are some other items from both the AL and NL Central…
- Francisco Liriano's 2014 option with the Pirates will vest for $6MM if the southpaw can avoid spending 120 days on the disabled list this season, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports. Liriano signed a complicated deal with the Bucs in February that only guaranteed him $1MM in 2013 but could've been worth as much as $12.75MM if Liriano stayed healthy. His stint on the DL this season already cost him around $1.625MM this season and an extra $2MM for 2014.
- Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter threw to live batters on Monday, The Associated Press reports, and may repeat the process if his shoulder doesn't become numb. Carpenter was thought to be out for all of 2013 and was pondering retirement due to ongoing shoulder injuries, but the former Cy Young Award winner has taken several positive steps in his comeback.
- The Twins had some interest in Quintin Berry before the Royals claimed the outfielder off waivers earlier today, 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson tweets.
- Scott Kazmir credits his development of secondary pitches and better pitching strategies for his return to the Major Leagues, Howard Megdal of Sports On Earth writes. Kazmir has a 5.13 ERA in eight starts with the Indians this season but his secondary numbers are good enough that MLBTR's Steve Adams believes he could earn a decent free agent contract this winter.
- "Lots of changes figure to occur" with the Royals if the team can't get on track, Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star writes as part of a reader mailbag. If they make a big move like trading Ervin Santana, Dutton figures K.C. would look to acquire a slugging corner outfielder or a second baseman in return.
- Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago covers several White Sox and Cubs topics and rumors in his live chat about Windy City baseball.
The rise and fall of Scott Kazmir was a well-known tale when he signed a minor league deal with the Indians this offseason. After being infamously traded for Victor Zambrano in one of the more lopsided trades of the past 10 years, he quickly ascended to ace status with the Rays. He began to lose velocity in the 2008 season, and his control became increasingly problematic.
Kazmir was traded to the Angels, and things only got worse for him in Anaheim. 2010 would be the last full season he threw in the Major Leagues, and he posted a ghastly 5.94 ERA in 150 innings with a fastball that had lost more than two miles per hour from his peak. Despite speculation that he lost arm strength, Kazmir told David Laurila of Fangraphs that wasn't the case:
“I didn’t really ever lose arm strength, it’s more I lost my ability to use my body. I lost my ability to use my lower half — everything was upper body — and everything started swinging side to side; I didn’t have a good direction to the plate."
Kazmir ultimately wound up pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012 as he contemplated his future. He had thrown just 1 2/3 Major League innings since 2010 when he signed with Cleveland, but it looks like he could be in for a full season of work. He's thrown 40 1/3 innings for the Tribe over eight starts. His 5.13 ERA isn't all that impressive, but he's averaging 91.7 mph on his fastball. Sabermetric stats like FIP (4.56), xFIP (3.96) and SIERA (3.79) all feel that Kazmir has been unlucky. Indeed, his .362 BABIP and 14.9 percent HR/FB both seem due for a correction.
Kazmir is still just 29 years old and won't be 30 until next January. If he's able to keep himself off the disabled list and see his BABIP and HR/FB regress toward the league averages (.292 and 11.0, respectively), Kazmir should draw significant interest on the free agent market. Paul Maholm figures to be the best lefty on the market, but Kazmir could stake his claim as the second-best free agent lefty.
Another enigmatic left-hander, Francisco Liriano, was able to secure a two-year deal worth $12.75MM with the Pirates this offseason despite posting an ERA over 5.00 from 2011-12 (he later had to re-work his deal after breaking his non-throwing arm). Even if Kazmir continues at his current rate, Liriano's deal seems attainable. If he can lower his ERA while maintaining his 9.1 K/9 and 3.3 BB/9, a higher annual salary or a third year could be in store.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Major league baseball has made strides in increasing racial diversity but has yet to increase its hiring of females in the sport's upper echelons, reports Ronald Blum of the Associated Press. Changes in the number of African-American and Latino players since last year reportedly fell within the range of regular fluctuation. Elsewhere around baseball:
- If you were wondering how bad your team's injury woes are compared against the rest of the league, be sure to check out the New York Times' Money on the Bench feature. With a daily wasted dollar total that is updated as you read, the site also includes a helpful graphic that shows which players have accounted for the largest hit. Currently leading the way are the Yankees, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Mets, and Cardinals. Alex Rodriguez and Johan Santana have been the biggest drags on their teams' payrolls.
- Every year, several players that look to be on the decline will manage to turn things around. Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca details this year's turnaround specialists. Chase Utley, Scott Kazmir, and Nate McLouth are among the rebounding players who will be looking to take their early success into next year's free agent market.
- Earlier today, Tim Dierkes asked MLBTR readers to weigh in on which players would receive qualifying offers after this season. The current results have produced some clear favorites, with more than 50% of respondents identifying Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and Curtis Granderson as likely to receive an offer. The only other player to receive a greater-than 35% response rate is Hunter Pence, at 46.0%. Hanging around the 30% mark are players like Chase Utley, Matt Garza, Brian McCann, Tim Lincecum, Hiroki Kuroda, Mike Napoli, and Nelson Cruz.
The White Sox are back at home after a 3-7 road trip, and they were 7-9 overall heading into an afternoon matchup against the Twins. But GM Rick Hahn says he isn't concerned about his team's slow start, MLB.com's Scott Merkin reports. "With just about 10 percent of the season played, I don't think you can draw any grand conclusions about where things sit right now," Hahn said. And with so small a sample, Hahn isn't about to start making big moves. "It certainly is a temptation to explore other options, but it's way too soon to avert from the plan except when forced to due to injury," he says. Here are more notes from the American League.
- The Angels' lack of pitching talent could cost GM Jerry Dipoto, manager Mike Scioscia, and pitching coach Mike Butcher their jobs, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times argues. The Angels are currently 6-10, and their starting rotation has a 5.62 ERA. But DiGiovanna says owner Arte Moreno might ultimately be most responsible for the Angels' current roster construction, as Moreno's "infatuation with marquee names" led the team to sign hitters Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to enormous contracts. Instead of signing Hamilton, the Angels could have tried to retain Zack Greinke, who ended up heading north to the Dodgers. Among Dipoto, Scioscia and Butcher, Butcher's seat is the hottest, DiGiovanna says. Firing Scioscia seems much less likely, due to Scioscia's enormous $50MM contract.
- Scott Kazmir will make his Indians debut tonight, and it will be his first big-league appearance in over two years, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer notes. After being released by the Angels in May 2011, Kazmir pitched for the independent-league Sugar Land Skeeters in 2012. He won a spot in the Indians' rotation out of camp, but his 2013 debut was delayed by a rib cage injury.
The changing nature of free agency has been a hot topic of late, as MLBTR noted earlier today. A series of high-profile extensions this spring have reinforced an apparent new trend towards teams retaining their best young players with long-term deals. As Larry Stone of the Seattle Times posits, this trend also increases the importance of scouting and developing young players, with MLB's recent spending limits potentially leveling the playing field between large and small-market clubs.
- Alex Rodriguez's record-breaking 2007 contract extension with the Yankees was re-visited in a piece on Saturday from David Waldstein of the New York Times. Waldstein reports on the events that ensued after Rodriguez exercised the opt-out clause in his contract, with the announcement infamously coming in the midst of what turned out to be the final game of the World Series. After receiving counsel from people ranging from Mariano Rivera to Warren Buffett, Rodriguez apologized to Hal and Hank Steinbrenner to pave the way to a new deal with the Yanks. The unprecedented contract included a $265MM salary guarantee over ten seasons, a $10MM signing bonus, and career home run milestone payments of up to $30MM. With Rodriguez now suffering from some combination of ineffectiveness, injury, and intrigue, Waldstein writes, New York may be exploring a variety of ways to get out from under the deal.
- An opt-out clause could play a big role in another potential ten-year commitment: the recently-inked eight-year, $120MM extension between Elvis Andrus and the Rangers. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explains, the deal's opt-out clause is likely to turn the Andrus extension into a four-year, $60MM deal. While this seems to be a big concession by Texas, Rosenthal says it was necessary to lock up four of the Scott Boras client's free agent years. The club will pursue insurance to protect itself in the event that Andrus does not exercise the opt-out clause due to injury. The deal also gives the Rangers plenty of flexibility to take advantage of super-prospect Jurickson Profar, either in their lineup (at second base) or via trade.
- While still not conforming his new deal, Andrus commented today on his relationship with Boras, as reported by T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com. Discussing his agent's penchant for testing the market, Andrus said: "We're the boss. I know everybody thinks that about Scott but it's different if you're the one in that position. He works for us. I know he tries to get the best deal that he can but it comes down to my choice and what's better for me and my family."
- Scott Kazmir appears close to coming all the way back to the big leagues after being activated by the Indians, writes Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer. In a corresponding move, the club optioned left-hander Nick Hagadone to Triple-A. Kazmir, who will now receive a $1MM base salary after initially signing a minor league deal, may still have to wait to actually make an appearance after straining his ab. As the Indians noted on Twitter, today's transaction allows the club to back-date a Kazmir DL stint if he is not ready to go.
- The Red Sox are signing infielder Brandon Snyder to a minor league deal, as first reported by Chris Cotillo (Twitter link). Alex Speier of WEEI.com confirmed (via Twitter) that Snyder, who was recently released by the Rangers, has signed with Boston and is headed to Triple-A Pawtucket.
Each year teams parlay minor league signings into big rewards at the Major League level. In recent years, players like Ryan Vogelsong, Jared Burton and some guy named R.A. Dickey have been brought in on minor league deals and wound up signing extensions with their teams due to strong performance. Here's a look at some of the non-roster invitees from this offseason who have recently secured jobs with their teams:
- Scott Kazmir has won the job as the Indians' fifth starter, Nick Camino of WTAM 1100 tweets. Kazmir's velocity has reported returned and he posted a strong Spring Training (13-to-1 K/BB ratio and a 3.46 ERA in 13 innings).
- Ryan Raburn has won a spot on the Indians, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer (Twitter link). Raburn has hit .359/.479/.795 with four homers in 48 plate appearances this Spring.
- Erik Bedard is expected to make the Astros' rotation, GM Jeff Luhnow told Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). The Canadian has turned in six scoreless innings in official starts, with nine strikeouts and two walks.
- Outfielder Wilkin Ramirez seems to have forced his way onto the Twins' 25-man roster, per MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger (on Twitter). Ramirez, who played in the minors for the Twins last season, hit .425/.465/.600 in 43 trips to the plate.
- On Monday, it was announced that Rick Ankiel, Kameron Loe, Jason Giambi and LaTroy Hawkins (all Article XX(B) free agents) made their respective rosters. Today, we learned that Jonathan Sanchez and Brandon Inge have roster spots with the Pirates.
Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan had dinner with principal owners Ray Davis and Bob Simpson Friday night to discuss his future role with the franchise. Simpson called the meeting "productive" while Ryan remained silent until today when he released a statement through the team. "Over the last week, Ray Davis, Bob Simpson, and I have been in discussion and met in-person. The conversations have been productive, and we have discussed my role as CEO of the organization. We agreed these discussions will continue as we go forward. I am very proud of what the Rangers have accomplished over the last several years, and I believe our preparations for upcoming season are what is important." Sources have told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram Ryan could leave after he fulfills his two remaining team obligations: in San Antonio for the Rangers' two exhibition games there March 29-30 and in Houston during the Rangers' season-opening series against the Astros. In other news and notes from the American League:
- Rick Porcello became the first Tiger pitcher to pitch five innings this spring, allowing no runs on three hits while striking out four. George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press tweets Porcello was happy to discuss his outing, but refused to comment on the many trade rumors surrounding him.
- J.A. Happ, also a subject of trade rumors, is frustrated by his role with the Blue Jays and sees himself as a Major League starting pitcher, according to MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm (Twitter links). Happ, as quoted by Chisholm on Twitter, realizes he is auditioning for other teams, "I know there are other people in the stands as well so I'm trying to just keep my routine and we'll see what happens."
- Indians manager Terry Francona has named Zach McAllister as the team's fourth starter, the Associated Press reports (via the Boston Herald). If the Indians choose to start Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, and Corey Kluber in the minors, the leading veteran candidates for the final spot are Scott Kazmir and Daisuke Matsuzaka, according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer who would put his money on Kazmir.
Here's the latest from around the AL Central…
- Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski admitted to reporters (including Lynn Henning of the Detroit News) that teams had been calling him about the Tigers' starting pitching depth. The Rangers reportedly asked about Rick Porcello earlier this week and several teams have shown interest in the right-hander throughout the offseason.
- Dombrowski and Jim Leyland revealed no new details about the Tigers' closer situation other than saying that rookie Bruce Rondon is still very much a candidate for the job despite struggling in four Spring Training outings.
- White Sox GM Rick Hahn discussed Chris Sale's extension with reporters (including MLB.com's Scott Merkin) and likes that the team was able to lock up a potential ace at what could end up being a bargain price. "Obviously this past offseason was a pretty robust one in terms of where the compensation was going. So being able to lock something down before there was further escalation in Chris' market had a lot of appeal to us," Hahn said.
- Scott Kazmir can opt out of his minor league deal with the Indians if he isn't on their Major League roster by April 2, ESPN's Buster Olney reports (via Twitter). Daisuke Matsuzaka, another Tribe minor league signing, also has an opt-out date "about the same time."
- Unless Justin Morneau improves on his 2012 numbers, Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities feels the Twins will struggle to get "anything significant" for the slugger in a possible trade, and could have to settle for a trade package similar to what they received for Francisco Liriano last summer. Morneau hit .267/.333/.440 with 19 home runs in 570 PA in 2012 and is entering his last season under contract with Minnesota. Mackey also discusses the Twins payroll, various roster decisions and other topics during this chat with fans.
Some late-night links pertaining to baseball's two Central divisions…
- Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal is going to visit Dr. James Andrews to have his problematic elbow re-evaluated, writes Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. However, GM John Mozeliak isn't second-guessing the decision not to operate on Furcal following the 2012 season.
- Hummel's colleague, Derrick Goold, writes that while the Cardinals had interest in Stephen Drew this offseason, Drew's decision came down to the Athletics or Red Sox because Furcal's presence didn't allow the Cards to guarantee Drew playing time.
- MLB.com's Adam McCalvy profiles Bobby Crosby and his decision to make an attempt at a Major League comeback with the Brewers. Crosby was persuaded to pursue a comeback by his father, former Major Leaguer Ed Crosby. McCalvy notes that Crosby's agent, Paul Cohen, has orchestrated successful comebacks for clients Gape Kapler, Jim Edmonds and Troy Percival in the past.
- Another comeback story — Scott Kazmir — is taking things slowly with the Indians, writes MLB.com's Jordan Bastian. Kazmir will work on his breaking pitches in a minor league "B" game Wednesday as he builds confidence in the pitches in a low-pressure setting. Kazmir has fired four scoreless frames with four punchouts for the Tribe thus far.