Even with a $150 million figure being thrown around as the Toronto Blue Jays‘ latest bumped-up payroll for 2014, you’d have to think that a blank cheque isn’t necessarily going to get them too far.
After all, this is a free agent market where a mediocre Tim Lincecum will earn $35 million over two years, and where a middle-of-the-rotation starter like Ervin Santana can ask for a nine-figure contract … and not have it sound completely crazy. Considering that the Blue Jays have their own salary increases to deal with along with raises for arbitration candidates, the extra $20 million or so likely won’t be nearly enough to solve all of their woes.
Well, that is, if they want to jump into one of the bidding wars for a big-name player anyway.
Though doing so would probably be the most ideal (arguably more so for a positional player) on paper, the quality of this year’s class of free agent starting pitchers means that big money or not, the team is likely going to have to take on a fair share of risk whether it’s Matt Garza that they’re pursuing or Scott Feldman. And since the price for starters happen to be inflated and there isn’t necessarily a surefire ace available anyway, why overpay in that area?
This is where a pitcher like Scott Kazmir might come in.
Yes, this is the same Kazmir who missed the entirety of 2012 and who pitched just 1.2 big league inning in 2011 due to a combination of health and form issues — so you already know he’d fit right in on the Blue Jays DL. All facetiousness aside though, does his bounce-back season make him a good balance of risk vs. reward for the Blue Jays in 2014?
If Toronto is serious about pursuing the lefty, they should know by now that they’d have to make him a member of the team for more than just 2014. In fact, it’s not entirely inconceivable for a team to give him a guaranteed contract for three years. Given his recent history, that sounds a little bit over the top, but then again … maybe there’s some reason in there too.
For one, he’s only 29-years-old, and the somewhat backwards fact that his injuries have led him to a reduced workload while he’s still theoretically in his athletic prime is something that could play into how well he can translate his results going forward. Looking at his last 3-4 seasons prior, and you’d probably be inclined to take the larger sample size to stay away; but then again, he did average 92.1 mph on his fastball this season.
That number holds significance not only to his results, but his health as well because it’s as hard as he’s thrown since entering the league as a fresh-faced 20-year-old.
Given that his decline in velocity has been correlated to the deterioration of his health in previous years, is the injury history really that useful in gauging the lefty’s prospects over the next couple of years? How much more injury prone is he compared to the average MLB pitcher?
Small sample or not, I think that’s now a much more difficult question to answer because this isn’t the same arm that the baseball world has seen (or rarely seen, to be more accurate) over the last few years.
Sure, Kazmir did wind up on the DL, but keep in mind that it was an injury that took place in the beginning of the season, and that he went through his 158 innings after that without any notable issues. Combine that with his good peripherals (9.23 K/9, a career-best 2.68 BB/9), and you can see why it might not be so hard for a team to see him being an effective pitcher for two, maybe even three years.
That said, it’s not easy to say that Toronto will necessarily have three years in their window to compete. So if they can get him for two seasons at anywhere from $6-7 million per season, that’d probably be ideal as he might represent one of the only middle to back-of-the-rotation starters that might end up being reasonably priced, even if there’s a chance that he might not pitch very much.
Then again, that’s just one bidding war away from turning into three years at $25 million or more … and at that point, the Blue Jays should probably look elsewhere, good fit or not.