As has been mentioned, the Twins are likely to be linked to many names over the next couple of months. One name I think we will hear a lot about is lefty Scott Kazmir. In 2013 with Cleveland he went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP. There is certainly a lot of risk, but he will be 30 through the 2014 season. He made strides in the 2013 season that might make some believe that he could take yet another step forward in 2014.
Considering where he was the last couple of seasons, the fact that Kazmir is expected to get a multi-year deal at around $8-9 million per year is really quite remarkable.
Victor Zambrano for Scott Kazmir?
If you ever wanted to know what kind of crazy used to happen at that July trade deadline, and possibly why it doesn’t happen as often any more, look no further than this July, 2003 trade between the Mets and the Rays. Zambrano was a back-of-the-rotation guy that apparently the Mets thought could take them to the playoffs, and Kazmir was a Top 10 prospect in all baseball, blessed with an upper-90s fastball.
To no one’s surprise, Kazmir became a star with the Devil Rays. He went 10-9 with a 3.77 ERA as a rookie in 2005, though he was raw and led the league with 100 walks in 186 innings. By 2006, he led the league with 239 strikeouts in 206.2 innings. He never had pinpoint control, but he was young and continuing to improve.
From that 2005 rookie season through his age-24 season in 2008, he never posted an ERA over that season’s 3.77. However, in 2009, at age 25, he had a 5.92 ERA when he was dealt to the Angels in August. He ended the season fine, but in 2010, he went 9-15 with a 5.94 ERA in 28 starts. In 2011, he made one appearance for the Angels before being sent down to AAA Salt Lake. There, he made five starts and in 15.1 combined innings, he was 0-5 with a 17.02 ERA before being released.
In 2012, he got an opportunity in his home state of Texas, playing for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the independent Atlantic League. In 14 starts for former Twins third baseman Gary Gaetti, he went 3-6 with a 5.34 ERA. Certainly not the kind of showing you would hope for from a guy with his history. I mean, he was the Game 1 starter for the Rays in the 2008 World Series.
But, as you know, things have changed. The lefty went to Puerto Rico and, although he wasn’t throwing in the upper-90s any more, the reports were that he looked good, and was throwing strikes. So, Cleveland gave him a minor league contract with the opportunity to make their roster. He pitched well in spring training and earned a spot on Cleveland’s roster. He got hurt late in spring and made one start for Columbus before coming up to the big leagues again.
Kazmir was good in 2013. He went 10-9 and posted the 4.04 ERA. His WHIP was a little high, at 1.32, but he had a solid return. Certainly a nice season considering where he had been. His 2.7 BB/9 rate was the lowest of his career. He also pitched well against the Twins.
Regarding Kazmir, Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said, “When he was in Tampa, he was young and his body flew everywhere. He’s definitely in more control and command of the strike zone. You don’t see him flying all over. I remember him back there, glove flailing all over the place and the ball coming out at 98, consistently, but missing the strike zone. On his good days, you had no chance. He’s definitely in more command of his body and control of his plate. Now more than ever. The ball has a certain little jump at the end that really jumps on you. Nice little cutter. Decent little change up. His fastball looks like you should get to it, but it jumps. Good for him. He’s worked really hard to get back and I’d say he’s a really good pitcher.”
Earlier in the week, I wrote about having appropriate expectations during rumor season and particularly when looking at the top pitchers from this year’s free agent class. Each one of them have risks and/or injuries in their recent history.
Scott Kazmir will sign with someone and be a big risk. As much as Ubaldo Jimenez had been bad for several years before 2013, Kazmir had been bad enough to get released by a team that owed him $12 million and he ended up pitching poorly in the Atlantic League. However, like Jimenez, Kazmir has the ability to miss bats and that makes him very intriguing.
His 4.04 ERA is alright, but his 3.16 xFIP is very impressive. In 158 innings, he struck out 162 batters. Kazmir is very intriguing.
The Twins Daily Offseason Handbook projected two years and $18 million for Kazmir. I think I would jump all over that.
What do you think? How hard should the Twins go after Kazmir?