Don’t look now, but Scott Kazmir could be wearing a Houston Astros uniform again in 2016.
Per a report from Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle, both the Houston Astros and Scott Kazmir have expressed a mutual interest in the left-hander’s return next season. According to Drellich, both sides have maintained a steady interest in the other throughout the offseason and met on the first day of the winter meetings in Nashville to discuss the idea of Kazmir returning to Houston. However, Drellich mentioned that he met with 8-10 other teams as well.
Bringing back the 31-year old veteran may end up making sense from a baseball and financial perspective for the Astros. For instance, after the contracts rewarded to David Price and Jeff Samardzija, Kazmir may turn into a relative bargain when compared to the other remaining options left on the open market. And don’t discount the familiarity between Kazmir and Houston in negotiations.
While he could demand roughly the equivalent of the two-year, $32 million contract that John Lackey received from the Chicago Cubs, the fact remains that the former Sugar Land Skeeter has been a decent pitcher since his resurgence with the Cleveland Indians in 2013. After all, Kazmir did finish the 2015 season with a 3.10 ERA/3.98 FIP and 2.4 WAR. Not great, but certainly not terrible.
But the Astros do have internal options for the rotation and that route would cost the team only a small percentage of Kazmir’s potential salary. Who knows, maybe the team is willing to roll with young arms like Mark Appel or Vincent Velasquez. Perhaps a healthy Scott Feldman can reclaim his rotation assignment in 2016.
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Each of those options carries a certain amount of risk and Kazmir, in theory, could stabilize the rotation with another healthy veteran presence behind Dallas Keuchel, Collin McHugh, Lance McCullers, and Mike Fiers. And let’s face it, Kazmir is quite possibly better option for the rotation, at least in the short term.
However, general manager Jeff Luhnow and the Astros front office will have plenty of competition for the Houston native as there are reportedly eight to ten teams vying for the veteran left-hander’s services. Recently the Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics, and Los Angeles Dodgers have all inquired about Kazmir, and each may be willing offer the contract that he seeks. Once again, money talks.
And considering Kazmir’s struggles during the second half of the season the past two years, the Astros would be wise not to enter a bidding war for his services. The front office should also follow its plan for their younger pitchers in the minors, even if that means not resigning Kazmir. But that isn’t saying Houston shouldn’t, at least, gauge the possibility of a reunion with the veteran pitcher. After all, this organization is supposedly about due diligence, and this is part of that process.
**Statistics are provided by Fangraphs**