A year ago at this time, Scott Kazmir wasn't even on an MLB team. Now, he'll be $22 million richer thanks to the Oakland Athletics, who have signed the free-agent pitcher to a two-year contract.
In 2012, Kazmir was clinging to his baseball dreams, after a promising early career was derailed by injuries and a drop in velocity. He played independent ball that year, then spent the winter in the Puerto Rican league. In late December, he signed a minor-league contract with the Cleveland Indians.
In Cleveland, the lefty earned the No. 5 spot in the rotation, then went from a fixer-upper to one of the most intriguing free-agent pitchers this offseason, a guy who the usually shrewd A's were willing to invest in. He's now their second-highest paid player behind Yoenis Cespedes.
Kazmir was 10-9 in 2013 with a 4.04 ERA, numbers that aren't stunning on their own. But consider that Kazmir led the American League in strikeouts in 2007 and is a two-time All-Star. He's been around baseball for a long time, but he's still just 29 (he'll be 30 in January).
The A's are hoping Kazmir has exorcised his demons — he had a 5.94 ERA in 2010, his last full big-league season. Back then, he was having trouble hitting 90 mph. In 2013, he was back to 95-96, which helped him accumulate 162 strikeouts, on par with his 2006 season.
Bringing Kazmir aboard has major implications for the rest of Oakland's offseason: They're probably not going to pursue free-agent pitcher Bartolo Colon, who was great for the A's the past two years. He's 40, and the A's weren't too confident about their chances of re-signing Colon since other teams will likely throw more money his way.
That Scott Kazmir got an $11M AAV speaks to the size of the deal Bartolo Colon is seeking. Believes he can get multiple years for bigger $.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 2, 2013
It also means the A's could deal 25-year-old Brett Anderson who, like Kazmir, has seen a promising early career derailed by injuries. Now Anderson could be intriguing trade bait for the wheeling-and-dealing A's and another pitching-hungry team willing to gamble.
Interestingly, Kazmir will now be the veteran of an otherwise young Oakland Athletics pitching staff. He joins Jarrod Parker (25), A.J. Griffin (25), Dan Straily (25) and Sonny Gray (24) as Oakland's projected starters with Tommy Milone (26) also in the mix.
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