FEB 27: Kazmir’s deal is official and he will report to spring training, per Kerry Crowley of the Bay Area News Group (via Twitter).
FEB 23: Comeback season is upon us, it seems. The Giants have agreed to a minor league contract with left-hander Scott Kazmir, reports ESPN’s Buster Olney. He’ll be invited to Major League Spring Training. Kazmir will earn a $600K base salary if he makes the Giants, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle tweets. His deal doesn’t include any opt-out dates.
It’s been nearly five years since Kazmir, now 37, pitched in the Majors with the Dodgers. Current San Francisco president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi was serving as general manager under president Andrew Friedman in Los Angeles at that point, and he was also an assistant GM in the Athletics’ front office in 2013 when Oakland inked Kazmir to a two-year deal.
There’s some obvious history between Zaidi and Kazmir, who at one point was one of the game’s brightest young starters. Kazmir broke out with the Rays in 2005, drawing Rookie of the Year votes that season and going on to make a pair of All-Star teams with Tampa Bay, where he posted a 3.51 ERA and a 25.1 percent strikeout rate from 2005-2008 (back when the league-average strikeout percentage was just 17 percent).
Injuries looked to have derailed Kazmir’s career after a disastrous stint with the Angels. He recorded just five outs in the Majors from 2011-12 and looked to be in danger of washing out entirely before even celebrating his 30th birthday. But Kazmir parlayed a minor league deal with the Indians — not unlike the one he’s now signing with the Giants — into a strong rebound campaign in 2013. He rewarded the A’s with an All-Star season in ’14 and a strong first half in ’15 before being traded to the Astros. Injuries again waylaid Kazmir in the second and third seasons of his three-year pact with the Dodgers, and he hasn’t been on a big league mound since Sept. 2016.
Overall, Kazmir owns a lifetime 4.01 ERA that, remarkably, is an exact match with both his FIP and his SIERA. He’s fanned 22.2 percent of his opponents at the MLB level against a 9.4 percent walk rate. Those numbers come across as that of a third or fourth starter, but Kazmir has shown on multiple occasions that when he’s at his best, he’s a good deal better than that.
Whether he has anything left in the tank remains to be seen, but Olney notes that Kazmir hit 92-93 mph in recent bullpen sessions. He’s never been a particularly hard thrower, so that velocity aligns nicely with Kazmir’s peak years. Even during his All-Star campaigns in 2006, 2008 and 2014, Kazmir averaged just north of 91 mph on his heater.
There’s no harm in the Giants taking a look this spring to see if Kazmir has another rebound in him — even if this comeback seems all the more improbable given his age and his considerably longer layoff from pitching in the Majors. He’ll add another intriguing, high-upside arm to a Giants staff that has rolled the dice on Aaron Sanchez, Alex Wood and Anthony DeSclafani on Major League deals.