Scott Kazmir and the Los Angeles Dodgers announced a three-year deal on Wednesday. Dashing the hopes of Astros fans of a return of Kazmir to the Houston rotation. The cost of right-handed pitcher Daniel Mengden and catcher Jacob Nottingham is for a rental and not a test drive. The TCB staff reflects on the trade and it's cost:
I didn't much care for the trade when we made it, as my fellow writers here will remember from my hawttaek vomit all over the listserv. I certainly don't feel better about the trade now. Actually, I don't really feel any different about the trade at all. I still don't like it.
Observing the signing and ignoring our trade to get Kazmir in the first place, I can absolutely see the appeal from his point of view. If he performs brilliantly, he can opt out and pursue bigger money. If he's hurt again or bombs, he can still get paid very well. Other writers here have pointed it out, and I agree: it seems like that clause might have been what put the Dodgers over the top, for him. And for myself, if that clause is the make or break aspect, than I wish all parties involved nothing but success and am perfectly, completely content rolling to Spring Training with a top four of Keuchel-McHugh-McCullers-Fiers and filling the fifth spot internally, perhaps with Scott Feldman or perhaps with another depth arm from the minors like Dan Straily or even Brad Peacock...but the absolute ideal scenario is for Joe Musgrove or even Michael Feliz to be ready to go out of Spring Training. No matter what, there are a lot of options and I'd probably avoid free agents entirely from this point forward.
The contract seems odd to me. He can opt out and he gets money for five years, though it's a three-year deal. It's an odd contract. I can't remember another one like it.
I've always said that I'd only be on-board with the Kazmir trade if we resigned him. We gave up two legit prospects for two months of this guy, and he wasn't even good overall, and was mediocre at best in the playoffs. Both prospects have to bomb for us to break even on the trade, in my eyes. Dealing prospects for rentals and letting them walk was a Drayton McLane thing. Frankly, I'm very disappointed.
I would be on-board, not ecstatic but on-board, with a Gallardo signing. I think the QO will drive his price down a lot, and I think we can afford to lose the pick. We brought three first-round talents into the system in the 2015 draft, and we'll have at least one, and maybe as many as three, QO picks coming our way in 2017. We can afford to lose that pick if you ask me. I'd be much happier losing a late-first-round pick for 3-4 years of a solid starter than I am about losing two prospects for two months of Kazmir, that's for sure. Secondarily, I'd be fine with giving Doug Fister a look, too. A trade could work, too. But unlike some, I do want another starter brought in. I don't want to rely on Scott Feldman, period.
I think Kazmir is a very good pitcher whom the Astros did not need. Scott Feldman, if healthy, has had the best performances of his career over the past three seasons and is one of the better fifth starters in baseball. I have no doubt the Astros will take a couple interesting short-contract guys into Spring Training. Additionally, (despite a seeming media consensus), Kazmir was not the last good starter on the market, and he might not even be the best of those available. Looking to reclaim some value after relative down years, pitchers such as Doug Fister and Ian Kennedy might be looking for one-year contracts and still make sense for the Astros. Either of those have the ability and track record to match or exceed Kazmir over a one-year sample.
I said a few weeks ago that of the Astros didn't land one of the big-dollar free agent starters, I'd be over it in about six seconds. I still feel that way.
No, it doesn't change my opinion of the Kazmir trade. The results of the trade could have been better--also could have been worse. We knew there was risk in the transaction, but he ended up making a positive contribution.
I'm not sure where to go from here. Although Luhnow indicated a lack of interest in Kenta Maeda, perhaps the Astros should reconsider, now that the starting pitcher pool is smaller. I doubt that the Astros can sign Maeda, but it's worth a look. Gallardo isn't a terrible idea, but I question whether he is worth the loss of draft picks. If the Astros give up a draft pick, I probably prefer Chen--if he can be signed at a reasonable price tag.
I still like that the Astros traded for Kazmir. They made aggressive moves to win the division, and while that goal didn't happen they did make the playoffs and nearly made the ALCS. That might not have happened without Kazmir.
It's tough and emotional to deal prospects but this deal only hurts the Astros if Jacob Nottingham becomes an above average major league catcher. That's still a long way from happening.
I wish the Astros could have re-signed him, because the contract seems pretty reasonable. No hard feelings to Kazmir for taking the money, and thanks for 2015.
Rumors and reports suggested that interested teams were offering him three years at an annual salary in the $12-$14M range, and that the first team to offer him four guaranteed years would emerge as the favorite to land him. With that in mind, I was really hoping to sign Kazmir to a 4 year / $50M deal, and would have been delighted to pencil him in as our #4 starting pitcher for the next several years. But this contract for Scott Kazmir is a really great one. He almost gets the $50M in total salary, but in only three years, and he gets the added flexibility of the opt-out option after just one year. This is a great deal for Kazmir, and his agents at The Legacy Agency should be commended. Considering that Kazmir was pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters not too long ago, I am also happy for him on a personal level. Stories of personal triumph are always fun, so good for Mr. Kazmir.
With that being said, I can also understand why the Astros' front office ultimately passed on matching this contract. The Dodgers and the Astros should have a very different valuation of Kazmir. For the Astros, Kazmir should have been viewed as a nice luxury signing; meaning we already have a pretty strong rotation as is, why not add to the strength by signing Kazmir and slotting him as our 3rd or 4th guy? So although we might put a value of $12M per year to add that kind of luxury, perhaps a 33% increase to $16M was too rich for our blood. Conversely, the Dodgers just lost one of the pitch starting pitchers on the planet in Greinke. They also lost out on adding the most dominant closer in the game today due to off the field issues with Chapman. Oh yeah, they also agreed to a deal with a very solid starting pitcher in Hishashi Iwakuma, only to have something in his physical scare them off. So signing Kazmir was very much more than a mere luxury for the Dodgers, it was more of a necessity.
As far as the trade, although I KNOW that I should treat the trade and his free agency as two different transactions, it is just hard for me to do so. I saw value in a signing Kazmir for four more years, so losing that potential value not doing so does make the trade a little bit harder to swallow. However, I am still glad that we took that calculated risk, and made a push to win at last year's trade deadline. I also feel that Kazmir's playoff start was better than some are giving him credit for. Although he didn't pitch a 1 hit shutout or have a Bumgarner-esque start, he gave us a chance to win in the game he pitched, and that is not easy to do in the pressure-filled playoffs, against a very strong and balanced offensive team that eventually won the World Series.
Lastly, I suppose we will fill the 5th spot with internal candidates. Scott Feldman continues to prove me wrong, so hopefully he continues to do so and comes back healthy and as productive as he has been thus far as an Astro. If you recall, I was so shocked that we gave Scott Feldman $30M that I even mixed up my 3 letter response. In addition to Feldman, we have other back-of-the-rotation options that the others have already listed. Although those come with uncertainty, at least we have some depth there. If we are looking externally, I second the Kenta Maeda option. From what I have read, the market for Maeda is seemingly small, with the Dodgers having been the only team I've seen even interested in him. Perhaps signing Kazmir takes them out of the running, which means a lack of competition might lower Maeda's price tag enough to get the Astros' front office comfortable enough with his value proposition.