Scott Kazmir’s Departure Leaves Large Hole to Fill
The inevitable has become a reality. Scott Kazmir is a Cleveland Indian no more after coming to terms with the Oakland Athletics on a 2-year $22-million deal. With the deal, Kazmir gets both the guaranteed money and the additional year that the Indians were unwilling to commit to. It also leaves an enormous hole in the Indians rotation that they must now work to fill.
For Scott Kazmir, signing this deal legitimizes his return to he majors. A reclamation project last season after two years spent bouncing between the independent league and his former best friend from high school’s fantasy league (OK, that last one is a stretch, but not far from the truth), Kazmir was solid for Cleveland in 2013. In 158 innings for the Indians stretched over 29 starts, he posted a 4.04 ERA and averaged 9.2 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings. His fastball was nowhere near where it was at during his prime with Tampa Bay, but at 92 MPH on average it was enough to make him more than effective for the Tribe.
In all, Kazmir ended the year with a record of 10-9 with 162 strikeouts. Not bad for a pitcher whose career was thought to be over thanks to injuries. Being able to demonstrate that he could not only stay healthy over the course of a full season, but also command the strike zone and be a competent big league pitcher yet again earned him the respect of those around him and caught the eye of teams around the league.
For the Indians, the loss of Scott Kazmir comes as a blow to a team that could hardly afford to lose a member of its starting pitching staff, but was far from unexpected. The Indians were in a precarious situation of having to make a decision on Kazmir that was likely to have more bad endings than good. While he was reliable throughout 2013, there is no guarantee it would continue into 2014 and beyond. To commit multiple years and big dollars to a player that could just as likely be back out of baseball if the injury bug bites again was too big of a risk.
Aiding in Kazmir’s value on the open market was the failure by the Indians to provide him with a one year, $14.1-million qualifying offer. As a result, any team that signed Kazmir this winter, in this case the A’s, is not forced to offer up a draft pick as compensation. But again, the off-chance that Kazmir would accept $14-million for a one year deal was too rich for the Indians to risk.
The loss of Scott Kazmir leaves the Indians looking to fill an empty spot in their starting rotation. Internally, they could fill the spot with either Josh Tomlin or Trevor Bauer. Externally, the Indians could consider options such as Bartolo Colon (unlikely to re-sign with Oakland now that they have Kazmir), Roy Halladay on a one year flyer, or maybe even A.J Burnett or Jake Westbrook.
There is also the possibility that the Indians will make a trade in order to acquire another front of the rotation starter. With the current state of their minor league system and some of the names already on the big league roster, they could put together a favorable package to pry an upper level pitcher away from another team. We saw for a fact yesterday evening when the Nationals acquired Doug Fister from the Tigers that it may not take a king’s ransom to acquire a serviceable #2 or #3 starter.
Regardless, the loss of Scott Kazmir is a blow to the Indians and makes it more difficult for them to make another run to the postseason as things stand today. Luckily, they have plenty of time to figure this out.
As for Kazmir, he provided us with a great story to cover back during spring training and throughout the 2013 season. We wish him nothing but the best as he looks to continue his rebirth with the Oakland A’s.