Scott Kazmir Could be Mets’ Best Free Agent Starting Pitching Option
By Danny Abriano
The Mets are rumored to be in the market for starting rotation reinforcements this winter. Presently, the club has three starting pitchers (Jonathon Niese, Zack Wheeler, and Dillon Gee) who are penciled in to the 2014 rotation. In addition to those three, there are pitchers in the minors such as Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero who are on the cusp.
May 25, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Scott Kazmir (26) pitches during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, Matt Harvey is out for most, if not all of 2014. However, that doesn’t mean the Mets’ starting pitching situation is bad. Being without Harvey is a big blow, but it doesn’t erase the fact that the team has lots of other solid starting pitching options.
Still, the Mets are in need of one starting pitcher (not of the Aaron Harang/Daisuke Matsuzaka variety) that could help fortify the rotation in Harvey’s absence.
Tim Hudson would be a perfect fit on a one year deal, but there have been reports that 15 teams are interested in the soon to be 40 year 0ld, that he prefers to return to Atlanta, and that he could net a deal worth $24 million over two years. If those reports are accurate, he’s no longer a perfect fit.
The Mets have been linked (by speculation, not fact) to 37 year old Bronson Arroyo. In a recent report put together by Jon Heyman of CBS Sports, those in the know (one agent, one general manager, and Heyman) predicted Arroyo would receive a three year deal worth between $10 million and $12 million annually. Arroyo’s age and the fact that the Mets shouldn’t be looking to make a three year commitment to an external starting pitcher should lead the Mets to scratch Arroyo off their list.
In the same report for CBS Sports that had Arroyo netting a three year deal for over $30 million, there was a name on the list who is still young, has upside, and could be a potential bargain. That name? Scott Kazmir.
In Heyman’s report, the general manager had Kazmir getting a one year deal for $10 million, Heyman had him getting a two year deal for $15 million, and the agent had him getting a two year deal for $17.5 million. If those three are in the ballpark, Kazmir could be a great get. Signing him would mean a small commitment in terms of years, and a relatively small commitment in terms of dollars.
After struggling with his health and inconsistency in 2011 and 2012, Kazmir, who turns 30 in January, re-emerged last season with Cleveland and again resembled the pitcher he was when he broke in with the Devil Rays in the mid-2000’s.
In 158 innings pitched over 29 games started for the Indians, Kazmir posted a 4.04 ERA (3.51 FIP) and 1.32 WHIP. He allowed 162 hits, struck out 162, and walked 47. Most importantly, those numbers weren’t put up with smoke and mirrors. For all intents and purposes, Kazmir’s stuff was back.
The average velocity of Kazmir’s fastball in 2013 was 92.5 MPH – the highest it’s been since 2005. The average velocity of his slider in 2013 was 83.4 MPH – the highest it’s been since 2007, and right in line with where it sat between 2004 and 2007. With his stuff back, Kazmir struck out 9.23 batters per 9, his highest rate since 2008.
There’s a bit of risk attached to Kazmir, but as we’ve seen, every pitcher comes with risk. No matter how young, how good their track record is, or how solid their mechanics are, there’s always the chance for injury and/or regression.
What the Mets need to do, is pick a pitcher who they think is a worthy gamble. At the present, it appears that Scott Kazmir may be that guy.
Mets fans will always link Kazmir to the ill fated 2004 trade that brought Victor Zambrano to the Mets. However, the Mets wouldn’t be bringing him back to right a wrong or appease the fans. They’d be doing it because they think Kazmir is a good fit.
The Mets should be searching for a starting pitcher who won’t command more than two years, and it looks like Kazmir will fit that criteria. They should be interested in signing someone who has upside, and Kazmir certainly does. Another bonus with Kazmir is that he’ll play the entire 2014 season at 30 years old.
Kazmir may be a pitcher who offers his acquiring team a great trifecta – affordability in terms of both years and dollars, upside, and relative youth.
With the general manager meetings taking place next week, perhaps we’ll begin to hear more regarding who the Mets are targeting. With all the information that’s out there, Scott Kazmir seems to make all the sense in the world. The only question is whether Sandy Alderson agrees with that notion.
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