Scott Kazmir

Rumor: Samardzija Could Be Next To Leave Oakland

samardzija

The Oakland A’s dealt All-Star third baseman Josh Donaldson to the Toronto Blue Jays Friday night, will not be able to resign ace Jon Lester, who was picked up at the 2014 trade deadline for Yoenis Cespedes, and are now rumored to be talking to the Atlanta Braves about outfielder Justin Upton and catcher/outfielder Evan Gattis.

According to John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group, the price would be a high one. Starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, who was picked up at the July trade deadline from the Chicago Cubs for a package that included starting pitcher Dan Straily and shortstop prospect Addison Russell.

Samardzija is under control for one more season before he reaches free agency. He earned over $5.3MM last season and will get a significant boost based on his performance between the Cubs and A’s in 2014.

Should he go to arbitration, Samardzija’s case will be further proof that a starting pitcher’s won-loss record is not very meaningful. Prior to being dealt to the A’s, the Notre Dame product was 2-7 despite a 2.83 ERA and 8.6 Ks per nine innings. As you would expect his ERA rose in the AL, but only to 3.14. He had an eight to one strikeout to walk ratio and a .262 BABIP or Batting Average on Balls in Play with the A’s and still finished just 5-6 in the W-L columns.

The Braves, who have already acquired starting pitcher Shelby Miller from the St. Louis Cardinals, would probably like to hold on to Upton, but can’t because of another player’s contract that is an albatross around their collective necks. Ironically, that contract belongs to Upton’s older brother B.J. Upton, who the Braves erroneously signed to a five-year, $75.25MM contract prior to the 2013 season.

The deal has been a disaster, with the 30-year old Upton posting OPS numbers you would expect from a pitcher – .557 and .620. Needless to say, the Braves can’t unload him.

The 27-year old Justin, on the other hand, has surpassed an .800 OPS in his two seasons in Atlanta and won a Silver Slugger Award last season after he hit 29 home runs and drove in a career high 102 runs.

The 28-year old Gattis  hit 21 and 22 home runs in his first two seasons in the bigs, despite not reaching 400 at-bats in either year. Though he only caught and DH’ed this past season, Gattis played 48 games in the outfield in 2013. With just two years of Major League experience, Gattis is under the Braves control until 2019, which makes his inclusion in a deal (even for Samardzija) a head-scratcher.

While the team’s rotation would be bolstered by the addition of Samardzija – he would join Miller, Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, and Alex Wood – the Braves would be hurting for runs scored. It’s understandable that the Braves would rebuild their starting staff,pitchers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are expected to miss the entire 2015 season after both underwent their second Tommy John surgeries this past Spring.

The acquisition of Miller cost the team outfielder Jason Heyward, which means Atlanta would be down three starters from their 2014 lineup, though perhaps someone like outfielder Josh Reddick could be sent along with Samardzija.

If the deal goes through, this is the Braves 2015 lineup at a glance:

C Christian Bethancourt
1B Freddie Freeman
2B Philip Gosselin
SS Andrelton Simmons
3B Chris Johnson
LF
CF B.J. Upton
RF

The Braves added former Yankees prospect Zoilo Almonte this offseason and outfielders Jose Constanza, Joey Terdoslavich, and Todd Cunningham on their 40-man roster.

Meanwhile the A’s starting rotation would be left with Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir. Like the Braves rotation, the A’s had two pitchers – Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin – undergo Tommy John surgery this past Spring and can’t be counted on in 2015. Prospect Raul Alcantara, who has just two games of experience at Triple-A, could join the rotation some time during the season.

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Scott Kazmir: The Road to Baseball Redemption

kazmirScott Kazmir has been down a road many baseball players have taken: A road with no exit.

by Devon Teeple

At some point, every player’s career comes to an end. Regardless of age or how good you may think you are, the powers that be can make it all go away.

A few short years ago, Scott Kazmir was at a crossroads in his career. Injuries, control problems, and a lack of confidence haunted him. Whatever the cause, his career was all but over.

Until 2013, Kazmir’s last appearance at the Major League level came with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 2011. He appeared in one game, surrendered five runs and was promptly released. His future was then in limbo, and the once promising career of this first-round draft pick was uncertain.

Drafted by the New York Mets in the first round of the 2002 amateur draft, Kazmir was traded to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays two years later as part of one of the worst trades in recent memory. In return for the young lefty hurler, the Mets received Victor Zambrano, who was 9-7 with a 4.43 earned run average at the time of the trade.1

Zambrano recorded eight wins over the next three seasons, while Kazmir became the ace of a young Rays staff. Six years in Tampa saw Kazmir develop into one of the best left-handers the game had seen in quite some time. Despite a small frame (6’0, 185), he was blessed with an arm that could light up the radar gun in the mid 90’s.

Midway through the 2010 season, his fastball was clocked at a touch over 90 mph (90.5). It was the first time in his career that his fastball averaged under 91 mph. It was his first full season with the Los Angeles Angels, and his armor had begun to show cracks.

A combination of injuries and poor pitch selection were contributing factors to what became the worst three-year stretch of his career.

The signs were always there. From 2009 until 2011, his velocity2 dropped nearly five mph, and he was relying on his fastball more than ever. Batters were connecting with his pitches in the strike zone at abnormally high rates (94.7 percent in 2011), and hitters weren’t missing pitches in the strike zone (3.2% in 2011).

When Kazmir was released, it looked like he was done at the ripe old age of 27, but Kazmir wasn’t ready to throw int he towel. Despite getting pounded start after start, Kazmir battled each time he took the mound. After his release, he regrouped and started anew with the first-year independent, Sugar Land Skeeters.

As I had previously written, Kazmir’s time in Sugar Land was anything but normal. (Click here to read the entire piece.)

“The Sugar Land Skeeters took a flyer on Kazmir this past year and despite some rough patches that included a nine walk performance against the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs, he regained the form that once made him an All-Star, leading to people around the game to again take notice.

In 14 games with the Skeeters, he put together a 3-6 record with a 5.34 ERA with 51 strikeouts in 64 innings. Walks -his Achilles’ heel – were under control for the second half of his Skeeters season, allowing three walks or less in five of his six final starts.

His progress was seemingly over shadowed by the performances of Jason Lane (whohad just signed with the Minnesota Twins) and Roger Clemens (who started a comeback trail of his own). Yet Kazmir, determined to get back to the Show, continued his comeback, joining the Gigantes de Carlina of the Puerto Rican Winter League.”3

The Cleveland Indians took a chance by signing him to a minor league contract. It paid off for the Indians, who made it to the post-season and for Kazmir, who proved all the critics wrong.

His numbers didn’t represent anything earth-shattering; 10-9, 4.04 ERA, 158 innings, 167 strikeouts, 47 walks, 1.323 WHIP, 9.2 SO/9. Although, they were very similar to his 2008 All-Star year with the Rays, and considering where he was just a few months prior, last season can be considered the best of his career.

The rejuvenated Kazmir was granted Free Agency by the Indians, and he promptly signed4 a two-year deal worth $22 million with the Oakland Athletics. In less than half a year with the AL West-leading Athletics, Kazmir has been one of the best pitchers in the game.

In 16 starts5, he’s tied for fourth in the AL with 9 wins, and his 2.66 ERA is good for fifth. He’s been so good, even though he surrendered seven runs to the New York Mets in his last start, he still sits in the top five of the following categories: WHIP (1.01), Average Allowed (.217), Winning Percentage (.750) and Hits Per Nine Innings (7.16).

When you talk feel-good stories, the Kazmir transformation from independent cast-off to top lefty in the game is remarkable. Legendary even. There has never been, in my memory, anyone else that has gone from the top of the baseball world to the bottom and again back to the top of the mountain so quickly. Once cast side, Scott Kazmir has become a sought-after commodity again.

1 – Yahoo Sports
2 – Fangraphs
3 – The GM Perspective
4 – Hardball Talk
5 – MLB.com

Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM’s Perspective and a contributor at Designated For Assignment. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM’s Perspective on twitter and facebook. His full bio can be seen here.

MLB Preview: Oakland A’s Make Another Pitch For Playoffs

Dan-Straily[1]The A’s will again rely on up-and-coming pitchers like Dan Straily.

 

by Alli Baker

Key Departures: Chris Young, Kurt Suzuki, Jemile Weeks, Pat Neshek, Scott Sizemore, Seth Smith, Bartolo Colon, Brett Anderson, Grant Balfour, Jerry Blevins, Michael Choice

Key Arrivals: Nick Punto, Scott Kazmir, Fernando Abad, Craig Gentry, Drew Pomeranz, Eric O’Flaherty, Jim Johnson, Luke Gregerson, Josh Lindblom

Last year, the Oakland A’s not only overcame the odds and won the AL West, but they had the second-best record (96-66) in the American League to boot. The A’s came out on top despite having the fourth-lowest payroll in the league, a lack of star power, and playing in a division that includes big-spending rivals like Texas and Los Angeles.

This year, Oakland is looking to go deeper into the post-season. This year’s team has a tough act to follow, but General Manager Billy Beane has been working hard this winter to piece together another contender.

The A’s win with pitching so that was Beane’s biggest priority of the off-season. The A’s acquired Fernando Abad, Jim Johnson, Scott Kazmir, Josh Lindblom, Eric O’Flaherty, and Drew Pomerantz. The new recruits may not have the star power the A’s needed, but Beane has usually managed to put together a serviceable staff.

Scott Kazmir will  replace Bartolo Colon in the starting rotation, and for now Jesse Chavez gets a shot with injuries to Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin. Park underwent Tommy John surgery in March and is out for the year. Griffin, a 14-game winner last year, is out until May with elbow tendinitis. Looking for some depth, the A’s signed former Oakland pitcher Joe Blanton to a minor league deal.

ROTATION
SP: Sonny Gray
SP: Scott Kazmir
SP: Jesse Chavez
SP: Dan Straily
SP: Tommy Milone

BULLPEN
Jim JohnsonLuke Gregerson
Sean Doolittle
Dan Otero
Drew Pomerantz
Fernando Abad
Evan Scribner

Johnson will serve as the team’s closer, but since he led the AL in blown saves last season with Baltimore, he could lose his job. Top setup man Ryan Cook is out indefinitely with shoulder inflammation, while O’Flaherty is making his way back from Tommy John surgery.

While the pitching staff was shaken up over the off-season, the A’s lineup stayed relatively unchanged thus from last year. Oakland acquired Nick Punto and Craig Gentry, neither of whom will provide a drastic change to the look of the A’s. Punto’s versatility gives manager Bob Melvin plenty of opportunity to flip-flop players in and out of the DH spot, while Gentry adds some speed to the outfield.

The team will rely on Coco Crisp, Yoenis Cespedes, Josh Donaldson, Josh Reddick, and Brandon Moss for the bulk of their offense. While Beane filled the A’s pitching void,  it would be beneficial to improve rhe offense at some point this season.

LINEUP
C: Derek Norris1B: Daric Barton
2B: Eric Sogard
SS: Jed Lowrie
3B: Josh Donaldson
LF: Yoenis Cespedes
CF: Coco Crips
RF: Josh Reddick
DH: Brandon Moss

PROSPECTS

Oakland has a couple of options with prospects Addison Russell and Billy McKinney. Both players have big potential to boost the A’s lineup.

Russell would also fill the team’s need for a better shortstop than Jed Lowrie while providing some power behind the plate. Last year in the minors, Russell had 17 home runs and batted  .275 average at Advanced-A Stockton last year, before he was promoted for a brief stint at Triple-A. 1 He’s just 20-years old.

McKinney, an outfielder, is said to have a “tremendous feel for the game,”. The 24th overall pick in last season’s MLB amateur draft, McKinney’s impact to the A’s won’t come for some time.2

OUTLOOK

The Oakland A’s might not have an overly-impressive roster, or a giant payroll, but they definitely will compete for the division again. They’ll also be in the running for the wild card spots as well, especially if their pitching gets healthy.

 

1- milb.com

2- bleacherreport.com

Alli Baker is a hockey fanatic and contributor for Designated for Assignment.  She can be reached at allibaker23@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @allibaker23