In a surprise move the Oakland Athletics signed free-agent LHP Scott Kazmir to a two year $22 million deal Monday. This is a gutsy move for Oakland but it is the type of acquisition Billy Beane is almost expected to make. In Kazmir, Beane found a potential star player whose market value is low. Once a promising All -Star starting pitcher, Kazmir was released by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2011 seemingly ending his baseball career.
Kazmir had a promising career debuting in 2004 at the age of 20 with the then Tampa Bay Devil Rays (now Tampa Bay Rays), making the All Star team in 2006 and again in 2008. After a string of injuries and a drop in velocity he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in August 2009. He put forth a decent showing for the Angels in 2009 and part of 2010 but his production dropped and he was released in 2011. Not picked up by any other teams he was thus out of the major leagues at the young age of 27.
During 2012 Kazmir still clenched tightly and diligently to his major league dreams. He played independent ball that year and moved on to play in the Puerto Rican League that winter. In December 2012 he signed a minor-league deal with the Cleveland Indians, giving him an outside opportunity to make Cleveland’s starting rotation.
Surprisingly, Kazmir made Cleveland’s 2013 roster as their number five starter. Kazmir was 10-9 in 2013 with a 4.04 ERA, not stand out numbers but it did make him an intriguing free-agent this off season and one that the A’s could afford. Not only that in 2010 Kazmir’s velocity had dropped from the mid 90’s to barely being able to hit the 90 mph mark. But with Cleveland in 2013 his velocity was back up to 95-96 mph, the same form as when he led the American League in strikeouts in 2007 with 239. At only 29, he is young but with two All-Star games under his belt he could be the, albeit young, veteran that they Athletics’ have been seeking to lead their young rotation. The A’s rotation consists now of Kazmir (29), Jarrod Parker (25), A.J. Griffin (25), Dan Straily (25) and Sonny Gray (24) with Tommy Milone (26) also in the mix for the fifth rotation spot
This of course changes a lot for the Athletics and the many predictions of what they were planning this off season. It was as recently as this week still rumored that Oakland was going to try and re-sign 40 year old Bartolo Colon who despite his age and being suspended 50 games for PED use in 2012 had two good years for the A’s ending 2013 second in the American League in both wins(18) and ERA (2.65). Colon, however, was asking more than the Athletics were able to pay and it was looking as though they would lose out to other interested clubs like the Angels. The acquisition also answers the questions surrounding trading starting pitcher Brett Anderson to another team in need of good pitching who is also willing to gamble on a player with a long history of injuries. Hopefully for the Athletics that team in need will have a strong bat that they will be willing to part with.
Signing Kazmir seems like the perfect Billy Beane move. If Kazmir remains healthy and consistently reaches his optimum velocity the Athletics may just have found a young veteran and key southpaw starter to lead their young rookie rotation at a price that Oakland can afford.