Well, that puts a literal spin on the term Moneyball, doesn’t it?
I think it’s probably fair to say that the reported two-year, $22 million deal that Scott Kazmir is about to get is beyond what most in the baseball world would have guessed going into the offseason. Even so, given some of the deals that have already went down involving starting pitchers, that a team overpaid for the bounce-back starter isn’t even that surprising.
What is unexpected, however, is that the team who offered that deal is the Oakland Athletics, once (and arguably still) considered the torchbearers of all things prudence-related when it comes to MLB team-building.
The reasoning behind the deal isn’t too flawed, though. Billy Beane and co. knew they weren’t going to get Bartolo Colon, so they went out and got what they thought was the next best thing. And if you were to give Kazmir the benefit of a clean slate, there are signs beyond his 2.5 fWAR and 3.51 FIP — like a resurgent 92.1 mph average fastball, for instance — that suggests he could at least play up to his contact, if not exceed its value altogether.
That, of course, is a huge benefit of the doubt, and while the A’s surely did they due diligence on his health (he will also have to pass a standard physical), the dollars could easily cause the deal to backfire.
There are a number of questions that comes to mind regarding this deal, and the first of them involves Colon. If Oakland were already ready to shell out $22 million for Kazmir, how much further would they have had to go to bring back the 40-year old? Considering that he earned a $3 million salary in 2013, $22 over two years would have represented a significant pay raise, whether he thinks he’s going to get that three-year deal or not.
It’s one thing for the team not to have offered him a qualifying offer, but would the same deal that they offered Kazmir have brought back Colon? Would the A’s have even offered it?
They could have viewed the older player as more of a risk over the short term, though given the fact that the newcomer was essentially out of the bigs for a couple of years before coming back with a vengeance, I would go ahead and call it a wash as far as question marks go. So, did Colon demand that much more than what the A’s were willing to spend? Was it the term?
I suppose it’s not something we’ll really find out until he’s signed, but the term question is an interesting one. From the onset, it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that Kazmir could have earned a deal around $22 million if it were over three seasons, but that Oakland offered him that money in a two-year deal has consolation signing written all over it.
Did they have to make an aggressive offer to ensure they got one of their FA pitching targets? Do they have a plan to save some of the money from what looks like an overpayment? Whether it’s fair or not, this particular signing has a hint of swiftness to it that suggests it’s more reactive than anything else, even though Beane is surely too savvy to make a ‘panic’ move. It’s just … far from the most money-conscious deal the GM has made, you know?
Call it a hunch, but it seems as though there are going to be more moves to come corresponding to Kazmir’s arrival to Oakland.