Scott Kazmir Rumors


Central Notes: Bruce, Phillips, Arroyo, Johan

While Jay Bruce's agent, Matt Sosnick, said his client hasn't discussed an extension with the Reds, he didn't quash the idea either, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.  "Obviously, Jay loves playing in Cincinnati. He's made it clear in the past that all things equal, he'd like to finish his career there and certainly would be open to anything," said Sosnick.  While the Reds control Bruce through 2017 with three guaranteed years at $34.5MM and a team option for $13MM, the idea of a pre-emptive extension makes sense since the slugger will only be 30 upon hitting the open market.  Here's more out of the Central divisions..

  • Passan spoke to one exec who said that Brandon Phillips is as good as "gone" in Cincinnati.  Yesterday we learned that the Yankees made a preliminary inquiry on the second baseman, but it's possible that they're simply looking for leverage in talks with Robinson Cano.
  • The Twins have expressed interest in free agent pitchers Bronson Arroyo, Phil Hughes, and Jason Vargas, sources tell Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press.  While the Twins have yet to make a formal offer to Arroyo, the interest appears to be mutual between the club and the 36-year-old.
  • The Twins have also called on Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
  • Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (video link) spoke with Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer about dealing with trade speculation and the possibility of hammering out an extension.
  • It might not have made a difference, but the Red Sox weren't showing any indication that they were ready to let Torey Lovullo go to the Cubs, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).  The Cubs agreed not to poach personnel from the Red Sox after Theo Epstein left to take over their operations.



Giants Notes: Abreu, Vogelsong, Lopez, Tanaka, Belt

Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com participated in a live chat with fans today and shared a number of Giants-related hot stove items...

  • The Giants "went hard after" Jose Dariel Abreu and offered the Cuban slugger a contract that paid him roughly the same average annual value of his six-year, $68MM deal with the White Sox.  The catch was that the Giants' offer wasn't six years long as they didn't want to make that long a commitment to a player that is projected by many scouts to be a future designated hitter.
  • Ryan Vogelsong's $6.5MM option won't be picked up by the Giants but Baggarly thinks the veteran righty will re-sign on a cheaper one-year deal with incentives.
  • There is mutual interest between the Giants and Javier Lopez, and the money saved by declining Vogelsong's option could help the club afford the veteran southpaw.
  • The Giants are "probably not" realistic players for Masahiro Tanaka, as Baggarly figures that his posting price will exceed what the Giants are willing to offer, plus big spenders like the Dodgers and Yankees are in the mix.  Baggarly reported in August that San Francisco had an interest in the Japanese righty.
  • Brandon Belt could be approached about a contract extension in Spring Training but the Giants will just work out a one-year deal in the meantime to cover Belt's first year of arbitration eligibility.  MLBTR's Matt Swartz projects Belt to earn $2.4MM in 2014 and MLBTR's Tim Dierkes suggests that Allen Craig's extension could be a model for a Belt extension, though with some adjustments since Belt is a Super Two player.
  • The Giants are looking only for "reliable innings guys" in their rotation so the likes of Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson and Josh Johnson will only draw the club's interest if they're healthy.
  • Though the Giants are looking for a right-handed power bat and might trade prospects to get one, the club is unlikely to move the likes of Kyle Crick, Edwin Escobar or Adalberto Mejia.
  • When it comes to left field, the Giants may prioritize defense.  Baggarly expects San Francisco to look for a left fielder in a trade rather than free agency.
  • Baggarly hasn't heard Scott Kazmir's name mentioned as a possibility in San Francisco.
  • Mark Trumbo "has his admirers in the [Giants] front office."  While the Angels are known to be willing to move Trumbo for young pitching talent, I'm not sure the Giants are a good trade partner given that they're looking for arms themselves.
  • Given Marco Scutaro's age, Brandon Phillips "makes a lot of sense" for the Giants.  Baggarly makes it clear that he's only speculating, however.  Phillips is rumored to be on the shopping block but Reds GM Walt Jocketty recently denied that he's talked about Phillips with other teams.
  • The Giants are very unlikely to surrender their first round (14th overall) draft pick to sign a free agent who has rejected a qualifying offer.  This could have a major impact on the chances of the team pursuing Bronson Arroyo, who could be extended a qualifying offer by the Reds.  Baggarly feels that Arroyo and Dan Haren are the free agent pitchers who are most likely to be San Francisco targets.
  • Recent Pablo Sandoval trade rumors are "total scuttlebutt," in Baggarly's opinion.



Indians Notes: Giambi, Cabrera, Kazmir, Smith, Cloyd

The Indians' magical season came to end at the hands of Alex Cobb and the Rays last night, as the Tribe fell 4-0 in the American League Wild Card game. Here's the latest on the Indians, whose focus will now shift to the offseason...

  • Jason Giambi told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he would like to play one more season, making an even 20 for his career (Twitter link). The Giambino hit just .183/.282/.371 in 216 plate appearances this season, but he did belt nine homers, including a dramatic pair of walk-off shots, the latter of which has to be considered one of the highlights of the season for the team.
  • General manager Chris Antonetti brought the team to the playoffs by making bold moves and should continue to be bold by trading Asdrubal Cabrera this winter, opines Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The Indians are set to lose Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir to free agency, and Pluto writes that some pitching depth could be added if Antonetti can strike a deal with a team like the Cardinals. Mike Aviles is capable of bridging the gap between the declining Cabrera and top prospect Francisco Lindor, writes Pluto.
  • Kazmir and right-hander Joe Smith both told reporters, including MLB.com's Jordan Bastian, that they hope to return to the Indians in 2014 (Twitter links). Kazmir added that he hopes to pick up where he left off in 2013, and Smith stated, "I don't want that to be my last game."
  • Twenty-four teams passed on Phillies right-hander Tyler Cloyd before the Indians claimed him off waivers yesterday, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That Cloyd was waived despite having two options left shows that the team was never particularly enamored with him, adds Gelb. Cloyd was part of the proposed package for Astros reliever Wilton Lopez last offseason before the Phils backed off due to concerns over Lopez's elbow.



Free Agent Faceoff: Scott Kazmir vs. Phil Hughes

For today's Free Agent Faceoff entry, we'll take a look at Scott Kazmir and Phil Hughes, two formerly heralded prospects who enter the free-agent market this offseason with big question marks.

Kazmir emerged from obscurity this season to put together a respectable 4.14-ERA, 152-inning campaign for the Indians. That ERA wasn't a fluke, as Kazmir also posted a K/9 of 8.9 and a BB/9 of 2.7. The second figure is particularly impressive, as it's easily the lowest of Kazmir's career. As a left-hander who misses bats, suppresses walks and averages 92.1 mph on his fastball, Kazmir would potentially be in line for a multi-year deal with annual eight-digit salaries if he had a stronger recent track record. However, around this time last year, Kazmir was pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters in independent ball. He also struggled with efficiency throughout the season, averaging less than six innings per start.

There was talk earlier in the year of a qualifying offer for Hughes, but that possibility has evaporated after another disappointing season for the 6' 5", 240-pound right-hander. In a final line that's perhaps representative of his checkered career, Hughes posted a 5.19 ERA in 145 2/3 innings despite a 2.88 K/BB ratio that places him in the same range as starters such as Derek Holland and James Shields. As has often been the case for Hughes, otherwise good results were dragged down by an inability to keep the ball in the park. Hughes posted a 1.48 HR/9 this year, ranking among the league leaders. Given his natural fly-ball tendencies (career 33.6 percent GB rate), a team with a more spacious ballpark than Yankee Stadium could target Hughes as a buy-low candidate.

The major knock on Kazmir is the bizarre trajectory his career has taken. There's just not many comparables for the 29-year-old, a former top young starter who appeared to be out of baseball but re-emerged this season to post a 3.36 K/BB ratio in 152 innings. Hughes, 27, has always inspired optimism, but he's never developed into the dominant starting pitcher that many projected based on his size and stuff.



Free Agent Profile: Scott Kazmir

Nine months ago, Scott Kazmir could not find a team willing to give him a Major League contract.  After all, the former phenom pitched (poorly) for the Sugarland Skeeters in 2012 and hadn't had big league success since 2008.  However, Kazmir's rise from the ashes began with rediscovered velocity in a bullpen session behind his house last summer, as chronicled by Howard Megdal of Sports on Earth, and now he's probably one of the 15 best free agent starting pitchers available.

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Strengths/Pros

Kazmir doesn't turn 30 years old until January, so by free agent standards he's still young.  His velocity has returned: he's averaging 92.5 miles per hour on his fastball, his best since his rookie season.  His fastball velocity is tied for fifth among all free agent starters, and only seven southpaw starters throw harder in all of baseball.  This year he's whiffed nearly 23% of the batters he's faced, a figure only three free agents have topped.

Additionally, this is the first year in his career Kazmir has walked fewer than three per nine innings.  The combination of strikeouts and control leads ERA estimator SIERA to peg him at 3.62, fourth best among free agent starters.

While Kazmir has put together a nice season, it's difficult to picture the Indians making a qualifying offer and risking a one-year, $14MM deal.  If they don't make such an offer, Kazmir will not be tied to draft pick compensation.

Weaknesses/Cons

Kazmir will likely finish the season with fewer than 160 innings, unless the Indians make the playoffs.  Though he earned the Indians' fifth starter job out of spring training, a right rib cage strain delayed his return to the Majors until April 20th.  Kazmir's innings total is also held down by his inability to go deep into games, as he's averaged about 5.4 frames per start.  He's averaged 17.5 pitches per inning, the 11th-highest in baseball for those with 100 innings.  He's also had some health scares earlier in his career, with DL time in '06 for shoulder inflammation and in '08 for an elbow strain.

The bigger issue is how unlikely Kazmir's story has been.  Years of data suggested he wasn't a Major League pitcher, and now he'll require a multimillion dollar commitment on the strength of 156 innings or so.  What if his velocity disappears again?  What if his arm responds poorly to the innings jump he made in 2013?  Any team signing Kazmir is taking a leap of faith.

2013 hasn't been a flawless year, anyway, as Kazmir has allowed more hits than innings pitched and has allowed 1.18 home runs per nine innings.  Generally I shrug off a .320 batting average on balls in play and a 12.3% home run per flyball rate, but those things did happen, and Kazmir's actual ERA is 4.34.

Personal

Kazmir grew up idolizing Nolan Ryan and later patterned himself after Billy Wagner, according to JockBio.com.  Kazmir's father worked for a Texas welding supply company run by Adam Dunn's uncle, and the two future big leaguers sometimes played Wiffle ball together, reported Albert Chen of SI.com.  Drafted 15th overall by the Mets in 2002, Kazmir was traded to the Rays in '04 for Victor Zambrano in an infamously lopsided deal.

Market

"I would love to stay here," Kazmir told Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer this month in regard to re-signing with the Indians, adding, "I'm very interested...I'd love to contribute and continue to be with this group."  The Indians also have to determine the future of Ubaldo Jimenez, another coveted free agent starter.

Kazmir has earned over $30MM in his career, mostly by virtue of a 2008 three-year extension signed with the Rays.  It's too early to say whether he'll opt for the comfort of Cleveland, where he resurrected his career, or try to find the largest and longest contract possible on the open market given the uncertainty he faced over the last several years.  Kazmir is a Houston native, but it's unclear whether geography will be a factor in free agency.

Expected Contract

The bar for a two-year contract for a starting pitcher is not terribly high -- Brandon McCarthy, Joe Blanton, Carlos Villanueva, and Kevin Correia reached it last offseason.  That third year can be hard to come by, and if Kazmir's main goal is security, perhaps a vesting option could be brokered by agent Brian Peters.  If Kazmir is simply trying to maximize his earnings and has faith in his rediscovered ability, he might prefer a one-year deal in the $8-10MM range, allowing him to further prove himself in 2014 before returning to free agency.

In the end, I expect Kazmir to sign a two-year, $16MM contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



Mets Notes: Kazmir, Prospects, Duda, Yankees

Scott Kazmir will take the mound for the Indians on Friday night in his first career start against the Mets, the team that originally drafted him 15th overall in 2002 and infamously traded him for Victor Zambrano in July 2004.  ESPN New York's Adam Rubin talks to Kazmir about the trade, his brief tenure with the Mets and his comeback with Cleveland.  Here are some items about the Amazins...

  • The Mets heavily scouted other organizations for power-hitting prospects earlier this season, a rival executive tells Newsday's Marc Carig.  The Mets will put a priority on obtaining some big bats this winter, as manager Terry Collins admitted the team is lacking in power. 
  • Some of that power could come from internal options like Lucas Duda, who has hit well since taking over the first base job from the injured Ike DavisMetsblog.com's Maggie Wiggin thinks Duda could be a cheap and potentially very productive first base option for New York next season.  Duda has hit better over his career when playing first, possibly due to being freed from the pressure of playing the outfield, where Duda is a major defensive liability.  If nothing else, Wiggin thinks Duda's September audition could make him a trade chip for an AL team looking for first base or DH help.
  • The Mets could look across New York for help on the free agent market this winter, as ESPN New York's Mark Simon lists Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain as possible fits for the Mets in 2014.



AL Central Notes: White Sox, Raburn, Indians, Kazmir

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. 



Central Notes: Liriano, Carpenter, Berry, Kazmir

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.  



Free Agent Stock Watch: Scott Kazmir

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

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.



Quick Hits: Injuries, Comebacks, Qualifying Offers

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:









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