This is the question circulating around the office of GM Billy Beane and is likely what nearly every call coming to Oakland’s “Gepetto” revolves around. With the former All-Star posting a 2.70 ERA in over 83 innings of work with 79 strikeouts, he is one of the most sought after starting pitchers for contenders this season. A part from Cole Hamels, (whose services have been swirling around trade circles for months now) Kazmir is really the only other solid left-handed starter in the trade market.
Not to say Kazmir is of Cole Hamels star-caliber, or even that he’s been a better pitcher, but as of right now one could make a legitimate argument that Oakland’s lefty is more valuable. The primary reason is because of his upcoming contract situation. Although he is going to become a free agent at the end of this season, he will likely cost less than the $23.5 million that Hamels is currently earning. The argument for why Hamels is a more valuable trade asset is because he’s under control for the next three years with a team option for a fourth, and more importantly, he has little history of injury. So as far as Scott’s future in Oakland, unless there is an overwhelming offer that comes out of left field for the southpaw’s services, I think it would be wise of Billy Beane not to trade Kazmir.
Now I’ve read a couple of articles about the reasons for trading Kazmir and I get it. With his past-injuries and second-half struggles last season, one could be concerned with his production falling off. Here were his 2014 splits:
1st half: 2.38 ERA, 4.0 K/BB, 6+ ip/g (in 19 starts)
2nd half: 5.42 ERA, 2.4 K/BB, 5.2 ip/g (in 13 starts)
However, having now finally pitched a full season since returning to the bigs in 2013, I believe he will be able to his put inconsistent past behind him. From what I’ve read, he specifically used this past offseason to build up his arm strength in order to pitch effectively deep into the summer. If that’s the case, the A’s will be in a situation to maintain a top-tier starting rotation that currently is tied for the best starting pitching ERA in the American League.
Also, Oakland can offer Kazmir a qualifying offer at the end of the year.
A qualifying offer enables teams to become eligible for draft pick compensation if a free agent leaves for free agency. The value of the qualifying offer changes from year to year and is determined by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous season. Much like a franchise tag in football, teams only extend these offers to top players. The return if the player rejects the offers, is one compensatory selection at the end of the first round of the MLB draft.
So in the case of Scott Kazmir, I would suggest keeping him through the end of the season so that his free agency situation becomes a win-win for the A’s. Based off of recent trends, the value of the qualifying offer for the 2016 offseason will be a little over $16 million. While this may seem like a ton of money for a frugal (that’s an overly nice way to put it) franchise, Kazmir is currently making $13 million, so it isn’t that much of a pay raise. So if he signs, Oakland gets another year of quality left-handed pitching and if he chooses to decline the offer – to pursue a more lucrative contract – then the A’s will receive, essentially, another 1st Round Pick. Plus, it gives the currently streaking 2015 squad more of an opportunity to compete and hopefully scrap their way into the playoff race.
Either way, the green and gold come out on top.