Scott Kazmir (Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports)
The Astros need to upgrade their rotation for 2014. Jarred Cosart and Brett Oberholtzer will be back next season with Mark Appel and other young studs on the horizon. But what they are missing is a veteran ace who can be counted on for 30 starts and 200 innings next season.
But at what price?
We took a look a few days ago at the signings of Ricky Nolasco and Dan Haren, and the Minnesota Twins were at it again this weekend. The Twins gave former New York Yankee top prospect Phil Hughes a three year contract worth $24 million. And then today, Scott Kazmir was signed by Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s to a two year deal worth $22 million.
If this is the current going rate for these starters, then I certainly do not blame Jeff Luhnow for staying away. These are the types of contracts that can set franchises back and hinder them.
In the matter of a week, the Twins who aren’t known for having a high payroll, committed to $73 million for two average to maybe slightly above average pitchers. Even though they are likely slated to be atop the rotation, they are both better served as middle of the rotation starters.
Last season Hughes had a down year going 4-14 for the Yankees with a 5.19 ERA and 1.46 WHIP. His career numbers aren’t really much better (4.56 ERA and 1.33 WHIP). Perhaps the move out of a hitter’s park into a pitcher friendly stadium will help Hughes, but I would still be a little apprehensive about him. The 27-year old is a talented pitcher who has shown flashes, but has yet to fully put it together. For $24 million, that is an expensive gamble.
Going into last season, Scott Kazmir was left for dead. The one time All-Star didn’t appear in the major leagues in 2012, and only pitched in one game for the Angels in 2011.
Kazmir resurrected his career last season with the Cleveland Indians starting 29 games and going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA and 1.32 WHIP while striking out 162 batters in 158 innings. Certainly a pretty good season, but I’m not sure its worth $11 million a season.
While all three of these pitchers would have looked nice in Houston uniforms, I am perfectly alright with Luhnow passing on them. But at the same time, Chris Naverson is not going to cut it.