Pittsburgh Pirates Hot Stove Target: Scott Kazmir


The Pittsburgh Pirates could benefit from bringing in Scott Kazmir.

The early days of the offseason have been quiet for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Outside of the news that there were preliminary talks between Pittsburgh and Baltimore involving Neil Walker, the Pirates have not been connected to any other trades or free agents. The hot stove will no doubt heat up as we approach the upcoming Winter Meetings that will be held December 7-10 in Nashville, TN. But until then, let’s take a look at another potential free agent pitching option for the Pirates.

Scott Kazmir may not fit the definition of a reclamation project, but he is just one of the many free agent pitchers on the market this winter that the Pirates should consider signing. The rotation is pretty weak outside of Gerrit Cole and Francisco Liriano, and Kazmir would add another lefty to the rotation to break up what will most likely be a righty dominant rotation.

Kazmir made his debut in 2004 at the age of 20 for the club formerly known as the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and currently known at the Tampa Bay Rays. He pitched for Tampa Bay until late August 2009 when he was shipped to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Continuing a trend that started at the end of his tenure in Tampa Bay, Kazmir saw his ERA continue to climb (up to 5.94 in 2010) and culminated with a mark of 27.00 in 2011 when he was only able to finish 1.2 innings of work before being demoted to the minor leagues and eventually released in June.

After not signing a major league contract for the 2012 season, Kazmir spent the summer playing independent ball with the Sugar Land Skeeters with the hopes of regaining some of the success he had earlier in his career. After the summer Kazmir went to Puerto Rico for the winter and pitched for the Gigantes de Carolina to continue to work on showing teams that he could still play at the MLB level. The Cleveland Indians took a chance on him and signed him to a minor league contract for the 2013 season. That season saw his ERA fall back to a respectable 4.04, and for the first time since 2008, he struck out more than a batter per inning.

Kazmir posted a 2.38 ERA in Oakland and was striking out almost a batter per inning. In Houston, his ERA went up but some of this can be attributed to the small dimensions of the ballpark the Astros call home.

The 2014 campaign was the best season Kazmir had in a long time. Now with the Oakland Athletics, Kazmir earned his third trip to the All Star Game. While he did see a drop in strikeouts in 2014, he also saw his hits, home runs and walks per nine innings also go down. Kazmir was finally pitching like the pitcher he was at the beginning of his career.

Kazmir split 2015 between Oakland and Houston, where he was traded to round out their rotation for the playoffs. Before being traded, Kazmir posted a 2.38 ERA in Oakland and was striking out almost a batter per inning. In Houston, his ERA went up but some of this can be attributed to the small dimensions of the ballpark the Astros call home. This is evident that during his time in Houston his home run to fly ball ratio was 10.8% compared to just 5.4% in Oakland’s wide open outfield.

The veteran will take a career record of 98-90 and an ERA of 3.96 into his next contract. The last few seasons have shown that Kazmir still has some gas in the tank after battling injuries and mechanical issues that most likely led to some of the problems he had in the major leagues.

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One reason that Kazmir may be a good fit in Pittsburgh is that the large outfield could cut down on the number of fly balls that turn into home runs for him. He would also have arguably the fastest outfield trio behind him that could track down the balls that hang up in the air and stay in the ballpark. Given that he is a lefty and most hitters are right handed, he could succeed in Pittsburgh by pitching to them in a way to not allow them to extend their hands and barrel up on the ball. This would create many easy flyballs for Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen.

Like the other pitchers that have been profiled this offseason, Kazmir will likely have his choice of where to sign for 2016. He is part of the tier of pitchers that will not command a gigantic contract but will be pursued by a number of teams because he can slot in at the end of a starting rotation.

His last contract was for 2 years and $22 million, a modest price for pitcher who could help out at the back of a rotation. With the Pirates being fairly quiet so far this offseason, it would be a worthy time investment to check in on Kazmir. It is well known that Ray Searage has been able to fix many pitchers that have come to Pittsburgh, and Kazmir would be a great option who the Pirates should be able to sign if they are willing to offer a contract of 1-3 years with an average salary close to or a little above what he was paid when he was in Oakland and Houston.

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