With less and less top talent remaining on the free agency market, Scott Kazmir, most recently with the Houston Astros, might be the top starting pitcher remaining. He might end up playing some more for the Astros, but the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles are both very interested in signing him.
Kazmir is building on his success with the Oakland A’s in 2014 and the first half of last season before he was traded to Houston, and not his numbers from the Astros stint. In Houston he started 13 games, going 2-6 and posting a 4.17 ERA. That didn’t stop them and him from making the playoffs, but his one performance in the Wild Card series against eventual World Series champions Royals didn’t do him any good, giving up five hits and three runs in 5.1 innings. He didn’t take the loss on the decision, but it wasn’t his finest hour.
Kazmir, turning 32 in January, made $13 million last season before hitting free agency in November. He spent the first half of his career (since 2004) with the Tampa Bay Rays before starting his travels from team to team: Angels, Cleveland, Oakland and most recently Houston. In any case, a move outside the American League is unlikely. He’s a three-time All-Star (last in 2014) with a 3.96 ERA through 271 career starts. He was fantastic for the A’s in 18 starts last season, posting a 5-5 record and 2.38 ERA, while striking out 8.3 batters per nine innings, with his lowest WHIP of his career.
The Royals might be looking to move on from Wei-Yin Chen by bringing in Kazmir. Their reliance on starting pitchers has never been too great, and their success over the last two years has more to do with the lineup and the bullpen doing great in the postseason, but depending on the version of Kazmir they get, they could be seriously upgrading their rotation. However, for both them and the Orioles, there’s an issue of price, and if Kazmir is looking for a long-term deal for a lot more money than he made last season, these won’t be the teams for him.