The Oakland Athletics signed free agent pitcher Scott Kazmir to a two-year deal worth $22 million. An all-star pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays in 2006 and 2008, Kazmir had fallen on hard times from 2009-12. Arm injuries had robbed his fastball velocity. He spent 2012 pitching with the Sugarland Skeeters of the Atlantic League and the Gigantes de Carolina of the Puerto Rican league. The deal was first reported by Jim Bowden of ESPN
Kazmir rediscovered his fastball velocity with the Gigantes, and signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians in December of 2012 with an invitation to spring training. He experienced a resurgence with the Indians, throwing 158 innings.
While Kazmir’s ERA was a shade worse than the AL average, his ability to miss bats and improved command indicated he was a better pitcher.
He posted strikeout and walk rates of 24.1 percent and 7.0 percent, respectively. Additionally, his fastball velocity climbed back up to the 91-95 range and he threw more first-pitch strikes than ever before. Rather than showing signs of tiring, Kazmir had his best month in September, where he struck out 43 hitters while walking just 4.
This is a smart move by the A’s, who may not be able to re-sign Bartolo Colon. Kazmir’s flyball tendencies will be a nice fit for the Coliseum. The combination of a big field and a fleet of speedy outfielders made mediocre pitchers such as A.J. Griffin and Tommy Milone look very solid for the A’s this year. If Kazmir can produce similar strikeout and walk rates in 2014 to those he managed in 2013, he could have an ERA below 3.00.
Furthermore, the dollar commitment is very reasonable. Even for a small-market team like the A’s, Kazmir won’t be breaking the bank. Overall, Kazmir is getting less money than Phil Hughes or Justin Vargas and a lower average annual value than Ricky Nolasco. He looked an awful lot like his old self in 2013. If he performs close to that level, the A’s will be getting an awfully good bargain.