All signs are pointing to the New York Yankees going on a spending spree this off-season to ensure that they don’t miss the playoffs for a second straight year. However, with a free agent market that isn’t exactly overwhelming, the Yankees will need to be careful that they spend their money wisely while still bringing in talent which would help the team. The Yankees will have a need for starting pitching this winter, among other areas, and there is one player who might be had on a reasonable contract, Scott Kazmir.
Kazmir was once a top prospect with the New York Mets. However, he was inexplicably traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for Victor Zambrano in 2004. At 23, Kazmir would lead the American League in strikeouts with 239 in 2007. However, injuries and ineffectiveness caught up to Kazmir who racked up a ton of innings on his left arm. By the time Kazmir was 26, Kazmir had accumulated almost 900 innings in six years so it isn’t really surprising that injuries caught up to Kazmir.
After missing the 2012 season, Kazmir signed on with the Cleveland Indians last season and made an immediate impression. He posted a 4.04 ERA and struck out 162 batters in 158 innings, a 9.2 K/9 ratio. He was a big reason the Indians were in the playoff race until the last week of the season and the Indians will surely try and bring him back.
However, the Yankees will have a need for a starter or two. Hiroki Kuroda is a free agent and could return to Japan, retire or be offered a more lucrative contract and finish his MLB career out somewhere else. The Yankees would love to bring Kuroda back since he was essentially their ace for most of the season but they will face competition to do so from a number of factors as previously mentioned. The Yankees will also be letting Phil Hughes walk so they will need someone to take his spot.
Kazmir won’t break anyone’s bank this off-season but he won’t be the cheap investment he was last winter. He could be looking for a mutli-year deal but he also might be willing to accept a one-year deal to prove last year was no fluke. A two or three-year deal might be enough to get something done. He should be much cheaper than guys like Matt Garza or Kuroda. Kazmir does come with baggage though. His injury history is concerning but he managed to stay relatively healthy this past year, starting 29 games. He will be only 30-years-old in 2014 so if he stays healthy he should still have several prime years left.
If Kuroda isn’t re-signed then Kazmir should be an option. He might not be as effective as Kuroda was for most of the season but he could be a nice pick-up as long as the price doesn’t get out of hand. An incentive-laden contract might be the best way, something like $6-8 million in base salary with an ability to make as much as $12 million might be enough to ensure he becomes a Yankee and even that might be a little high.
There will be a decent amount of interest in Kazmir this off-season. The Indians would love to have him back and the Texas Rangers could look to add the Texas native to bolster their rotation. There are also the Mets to keep an eye on. So, if the Yankees want Kazmir they might need to spend a little but that doesn’t look like it will be a problem for the Yankees this off-season.