Scott Kazmir Rumors

Quick Hits: Contreras, Indians, Marlins, Yankees

After Brian Sabean traded Matt Williams to the Indians for a package that included eventual San Francisco cornerstone Jeff Kent, the public reaction against the newly minted Giants general manager was so strong that he felt compelled to declare: “I’m not an idiot.”  Sixteen years later, with two World Championships under Sabean’s belt, MLB.com’s Tracy Ringolsby writes that he “has proven that, emphatically.”  Sabean still abides by the credo he adopted while working for George Steinbrenner: “keep your head down and do your job.” Here are some notes on teams hoping to dethrone Mr. Sabean’s Giants in 2013:

  • Having agreed yesterday to a minor league contract with the Pirates, 41-year-old reliever Jose Contreras reported to camp quickly with plans to take it slow, says Tom Singer of MLB.com.  Still recovering from Tommy John surgery, and having just returned from his first visit to his native Cuba since defecting over a decade ago, Contreras said that the Pirates instructed him “to take my time and recover at my own rate.”  Pittsburgh GM Neal Huntington, for whom the signing was a “low-risk” gambit to bolster the club’s bullpen, stated that Contreras would “rehab throughout Spring Training” and that the team would “be patient with him and get him back as quickly as his body allows.”
  • The Indians have set up a three-way competition for the last spot in the team’s starting rotation, according to Paul Hoynes of The Plain Dealer.  Scott Kazmir and Carlos Carrasco, both of whom are attempting comebacks, will compete with recently-acquired prospect Trevor Bauer.  All three pitchers appeared in today’s Cactus League game.  While MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk maintains that Kyle Lohse could fit nicely in the Tribe's rotation, the team seems likely to utilize one of the options it already has on hand.
  • With Marlins catcher Jeff Mathis likely out for more than six weeks with a fractured collarbone, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro discusses the club’s search for a new second backstop behind presumed starter Rob Brantly.  In addition to considering internal options like Kyle Skipworth, “the club is combing through other rosters, exploring possible trade options and trying to figure out which teams have a surplus.” 
  • Other than Sabean, only one current GM has overseen multiple championship clubs: the Yankees’ Brian Cashman.  Cashman revealed today that, contrary to his previously stated belief, Yankees catcher Francisco Cervelli is in fact out of options, writes MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch.  MLBTR has labeled Cervelli as out of options from the start; check out our full list of players here.  Of the three primary catchers competing to break camp with the Yankees, then, only Austin Romine can still be optioned.  (Chris Stewart, like Cervelli, has had his options exhausted.)  When asked to comment on the catching situation, Cashman wryly reported: “We’ve got two guys out of options and one guy with an option.  I think the two guys are winning.”
  • Of more immediate concern to Cashman and the Yankees, of course, is the injury to outfielder Curtis Granderson.  In addition to the analysis of MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, other commentators have begun to weigh in.  Bill Madden of The New York Daily News explores the options for replacing Granderson and worries that the club could face a power shortage.  MLB.com’s Richard Justice opines that Cashman should stick to his winning strategy of “being smart and efficient” and “not overreacting to every crisis.”  For FOXSports.com’s Jon Paul Morosi, on the other hand, the injury “exposed the Yankees’ flawed roster construction” and leaves the club’s 2013 postseason prospects in doubt.

AL Central Notes: Kazmir, Sanchez, Tigers

A rebuilt Indians club should add to the mix of what was a competitive AL Central Division race during the 2012 season. While the Royals and Twins aren't expected to be much of a factor in 2013, the Indians, Tigers and White Sox may find themselves fighting for a playoff spot well into September. Let's catch up on the latest news and headlines from around the division.

  • Scott Kazmir told Jordan Bastian of MLB.com that he had a variety of offers to choose from but chose to sign with the Indians mostly due to the presence of manager Terry Francona (via Twitter). The 29-year-old lefty signed a minor league deal with Cleveland in December and will be given an opportunity to crack the squad's starting rotation.
  • The Twins remain uninterested in signing free agent Freddy Sanchez, who has been plagued by injuries the past two seasons, writes Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (on Twitter). Sanchez, 35, last appeared in over 100 games during the 2010 season with the Giants where he posted a batting line of .292/.342/.397.
  • The Tigers remain in need of a right-hander off the bench and will look to find the right piece internally before exploring the free-agent market, says Jason Beck of MLB.com. According to GM Dave Dombrowski, Danny Worth and Jeff Kobernus will receive heavy consideration for the open spot on the roster.

East Notes: Red Sox, Kazmir, Dice-K, Cashman

Economist Andrew Zimbalist says Terry Francona's portrayal of the Red Sox ownership group in his new book gives an unfair representation of John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino's level of investment in the team, according to Alex Speier of WEEI.com“I think they’re all really smart. And I think they all really do love baseball, and I think they understand the intricacies of baseball,” said Zimbalist. “John Henry is a stats guy. John Henry brought Bill James to Boston — along with some other very good sabermetricians, by the way."

Here's the latest stories and headlines making news out of the AL and NL East Divisions…

  • Former Mets prospect Scott Kazmir will attempt to make a return to the big leagues this season and believes he can regain the form that made him an All-Star with the Rays, writes Mark Hale of the New York Post.“If his velocity’s back and his confidence is back,” Kazmir’s former pitching coach with the Angels, Mike Butcher, said, “this guy still could be an impact in the major leagues.”
  • Daisuke Matsuzaka remains on the Mets' radar as he could be an option for either the starting rotation or in the bullpen, write Matthew Cerrone and Michael Baron of MetsBlog.com. Matsuzaka, 32, just completed a six-year, $52MM contract with the Red Sox
  • Yankees GM Brian Cashman celebrates 15 years in his current post with New York today, writes Richard Justice of MLB.com. The hiring of the former Catholic University second baseman in 1998 marked owner George Steinbrenner's 14th general manager in 25 years.


Indians To Sign Scott Kazmir

The Indians have reached a minor league deal with Scott Kazmir, according to Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer (on Twitter).  Cleveland is taking a low-risk chance on the left-hander following his strong performance in Puerto Rico this winter.

The left-hander displayed great stuff during his time in PR, throwing a 90-94 mph fastball.  The 28-year-old missed the 2012 major league season but did spend some time with the independent Sugar Land Skeeters, the same club made nationally famous by their signing of Roger Clemens

The 28-year-old had a disappointing 2011 season that included time on the disabled list, one appearance for the Angels and a 17.02 ERA with more walks than strikeouts at Triple-A.  He last pitched at an All-Star level in 2008, when he posted a 3.49 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.


Free Agent Rumors: Lannan, Escobar, Youkilis, Drew

With plenty of rumors flying around the lobby of the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, we're making sure we don't let anything slip through the cracks. Here are a few morning updates from around the league on some of this winter's free agents:

  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Mets have displayed interest in the recently non-tendered John Lannan, perhaps as insurance if the team trades a starter.
  • Although he hasn't pitched in the big leagues since 2009, Kelvim Escobar is healthy in winter ball and is drawing interest at the Winter Meetings, tweets ESPN.com's Buster Olney.

Earlier updates:

  • The Yankees have spoken with Kevin Youkilis' agent, reports Jack Curry of the YES Network (Twitter link). According to Curry, Youkilis would consider a one-year deal if the salary was at a "premium amount."
  • The Mariners are interested in free agent outfielder Nate McLouth, according to Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).
  • A rival evaluator tells ESPN.com's Buster Olney (Twitter link) that there's "no way" Stephen Drew would sign with the Yankees to be a part-time or utility player. Drew is seeking a full-time job.
  • Red Sox GM Ben Cherington acknowledged that giving up a draft pick to sign Nick Swisher would be a factor in Boston's pursuit of the outfielder (link via Sean McAdam of CSNNE.com).
  • Mike Silverman of the Boston Herald hears that the Red Sox still have a chance in the Josh Hamilton sweepstakes, but it's a long shot (Twitter link).
  • After getting a clean bill of health on his hand and wrist, Ian Stewart has drawn wide interest from teams looking for third base help, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today. Tyler Kepner of the New York Times notes (via Twitter) that Stewart could be a fit for the Yankees.
  • Within his latest piece for the New York Post, Ken Davidoff hears that the Mets and Ryan Ludwick are an unlikely match, and wonders if Nick Swisher could end up with the Mariners.
  • The Reds will meet with Ludwick's agent this morning, according to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. The veteran outfielder could accept the offer on the table from Cincinnati, though Fay speculates that the Reds are offering two years and Ludwick wants three. A two-year deal with a third-year option might work for both sides, says Fay.
  • The Athletics will meet with the reps for Japanese shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima today, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • The Dodgers, Giants, Brewers, Angels, and Rays are among the teams that have inquired on free agent reliever Mark Lowe, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports.
  • Scott Kazmir, who is throwing 90-94 mph in Puerto Rico, is drawing interest from a host of teams and could choose from a handful of offers soon, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. However, the Mets aren't in the mix for the lefty, tweets Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.

Olney’s Latest: Price, Dickey, Mariners, Kazmir

In today's Insider-only blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney says David Price is available right now for the right offer. Rival executives are convinced the reigning Cy Young Award winner will be traded in the next 13 months as his salary through arbitration becomes prohibitive for the Rays. Here are the rest of Buster's rumors…

  • The Rays and Price are not close to working out a long-term contract extension.
  • The Mets increased their offer to R.A. Dickey, but it's unclear how close the two sides are to a deal.
  • Olney speculates that the non-tendered Nate Schierholtz could be a fit for the Yankees, who are looking for a right fielder to replace Nick Swisher.
  • The Mariners have money to spend, but it appears they will have to overpay to land any premium free agents.
  • Last night we learned the Phillies are pursuing Angel Pagan, and Olney clarifies (on Twitter) that the two sides have been talking for weeks.
  • If the Giants don't re-sign Pagan, Olney says (on Twitter) they would seriously consider signing Shane Victorino.
  • Scott Kazmir is pitching in winter ball and teams have already started to show interest in the 28-year-old left-hander, tweets Olney.
  • The Tigers continue to say they are not in the market for a closer, tweets Olney.

Olney On Orioles, Red Sox, Kazmir, Heisey

Agents and players have considerably more interest in Baltimore as a potential destination now that the Orioles are viewed as a contender, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports. "It's winning," one agent told Olney. "Period.” Some free agents now list the Orioles as a team they’d like to join. Here are more notes from Olney, starting in Baltimore…

  • The Orioles are looking for starting pitching and hope to bring Joe Saunders back. Jeremy Guthrie’s three-year, $25MM contract could affect Saunders’ asking price, as Olney points out. 
  • While the Orioles have talked about adding a bat, they’re not expected to be particularly aggressive about free agent outfielder Josh Hamilton.
  • The Marlins, Indians and Pirates are among the teams that could have trouble luring free agents even if they’re offering competitive salaries.
  • One AL GM credits the Red Sox for building a team that plays well in Fenway Park.
  • Earlier in the offseason there had been talk that the SoftBank Hawks, the Japanese team that recently agreed to sign Bryan LaHair, could pursue veteran free agents such as Mike Napoli or Kevin Youkilis.
  • A number of teams, including the Indians, are scouting left-hander Scott Kazmir, Olney writes. The Astros had some interest in Kazmir during the regular season.
  • Olney suggests arbitration eligible players such as Chris Heisey and A.J. Ellis could be candidates for two or three-year extensions this winter.

NL Central Notes: Hart, Marcum, Garza, Clemens

A few notes from the NL Central to pass along …

  • Brewers outfielder/first baseman Corey Hart told Milwaukee he'd like to remain with the team beyond his current contract, which expires after next season, and is willing to play whichever position he is needed at most, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com. Hart, slated to make $10MM in 2013, also said that if the interest in keeping him in Milwaukee is mutual, potential extension talks would be best reserved for the offseason.
  • Brewers right-hander Shaun Marcum, an impending free agent, is nearing a return from the disabled list and understands that he is auditioning for the 29 other Major League teams, McCalvy writes. He also notes that Marcum and the Brewers have not engaged in extension talks.
  • The Cubs announced that they have transferred right-hander Matt Garza to the 60-day disabled list, and though his DL stint will expire before the end of the regular season, manager Dale Sveum added that Garza's been "shut down," according to Doug Padilla of ESPNChicago.com. Ending the season on the DL won't be good for Garza's trade value, but GM Jed Hoyer has said that the right-hander will be part of the team's 2013 rotation.
  • Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said he recently sent scouts to look at Roger Clemens and Scott Kazmir of the independent-league Sugar Land Skeeters, according to the Associated Press. Clemens is rumored to be mulling a return to the Majors.

Sugar Land Skeeters Expected To Sign Scott Kazmir

The independent Sugar Land Skeeters are expected to sign left-hander Scott Kazmir, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). The Skeeters are based out of Houston, Kazmir's hometown.

A number of teams, including the Mets, showed interest in Kazmir this past winter, when he worked out in front of MLB scouts. The 28-year-old had a disappointing 2011 season that included time on the disabled list, one appearance for the Angels and a 17.02 ERA with more walks than strikeouts at Triple-A. He last pitched at an All-Star level in 2008, when he posted a 3.49 ERA with 9.8 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9.

Former Astros outfielder Jason Lane is also a member of the Skeeters' pitching staff.


Mets Notes: Ownership, Wilpons, Kazmir

The big news out of Citi Field today was the settlement of the lawsuit between the Mets' owners and Irving Picard, the trustee for Bernie Madoff's victims.  Here are some more items about the team, including fallout from the settlement…

  • The Mets have sold 12 minority ownership shares in the club for $20MM each, reports Teri Thompson and Michael O'Keeffe of the New York Daily News.  The deals were settled last week, with the buyers of seven of the shares (four for cable company SNY and one each for Saul Katz, Jeff Wilpon and Steve Cohen) publicly known.  The $240MM generated by the sale of these ownership shares will go towards covering the club's operating costs for the 2012 season.  The Mets have also paid back several team debts, including a $25MM loan from Major League Baseball and a $40MM loan from Bank Of America.
  • "So while the Wilpons may consider themselves the day’s winners, it’s the fans that emerge as the losers," writes Bob Klapisch for FOX Sports.  Klapisch outlines the several hundred millions in debt that the franchise still owes and predicts the Mets may face several more years of low payrolls and uncertainty.
  • Scouting reports on Scott Kazmir "were not great," which is why the Mets passed on a reunion with the left-hander, writes MLB.com's Anthony DiComo.  This mailbag piece also covers such topics as the Mets' training and medical staffs and center field prospect Kirk Nieuwenhuis.
  • Earlier today, MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith reviewed the Mets' offseason.