The Cubs have been a roll lately looking more like the team they did in April, than the one they were in May. The team has gone back to winning in dramatic walk-off fashion thanks to some improved pitching in the rotation and in the bullpen. The bullpen improvement over the last couple of weeks has helped mask the struggles Tsuyoshi Wada has been having and the black hole that the No. 4 slot in the rotation has been the whole season.
If the club hopes to make their first playoff appearance since 2008, an acquisition is likely going to have to be necessary. Scott Kazmir is a player the Cubs have been reportedly eyeing to fill that role. Let’s take a look what it may cost to acquire him.
Scott Kazmir’s career has been an interesting one and you can’t look at his composite statistics to get a feel for the kind of pitcher he is without breaking it down into sections.
He debuted as a 20-year old in 2004 with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays relying on a mid-90s fastball and sharp slider to induce strikeouts. In 2007, he actually led the AL in the category with 239 strikeouts. From his debut year to 2008, he was a two-time All-Star and he compiled a 47-37 record, 3.61 ERA, 1.36 WHIP and 783 strikeouts in 723 innings.
As evidenced by his WHIP, Kazmir’s electric stuff came with command issues and he led the AL in walks with 100 in 2005. Kazmir has also been fairly injury prone and from 2009-2011, these injuries caused him to change his delivery and his velocity and effectiveness sharply declined.
During that time frame, Kazmir had a 19-24 record, 5.54 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and 210 strikeouts in 299 innings. Those results almost ended Kazmir’s career, but after re-adjusting his delivery and relying more on his change-up than his fastball, Kazmir re-emerged in 2013 with the Cleveland Indians, who signed him to a minor-league deal.
Since then he has compiled a 28-22 record, 3.61 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 393 strikeouts in 419.1 innings. His return to form parlayed into a two-year contract that he is in the midst of completing with Oakland A’s and who the Cubs will have to deal with if they hope to acquire him.
As stated in our Ben Zobrist and Tyler Clippard profiles, Billy Beane will likely be looking for a major return after the Cubs front office fleeced him in their acquisition of Addison Russell at the deadline last year.
Kazmir’s story is certainly unique and inspiring, but lowers his overall value some. So far this year, Kazmir is 3-4 with a 2.79 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 67 strikeouts in 71 innings. Unfortunately, his past issues with injuries, including some time spent on the disabled list this year with shoulder stiffness, probably lowers his value.
Good comparisons for a Kazmir deal could be three trades that included Francisco Liriano, Matt Garza and Brandon McCarthy.
Like Kazmir, Francisco Liriano has lights-out stuff but has struggled at times with command, consistency and a whole host of arm injuries. At the deadline in 2012, he was traded from the Minnesota Twins to the Chicago White Sox for SS Eduardo Escobar and LHP Pedro Hernandez. It should be noted that Liriano was not having the best season with a 3-10 record and 5.31 ERA upon acquisition and was set to be a free agent after the season. Still, the Twins received Escobar, a top 10 prospect with the potential to hit for average and ceiling to be a useful utility infielder. Hernandez was not considered among the White Sox’s top 30 prospects and the Twins likely saw enough in him to be thrown in the deal.
A more familiar trade to Cubs fans would be the deal that had the Cubs send Matt Garza to the Texas Rangers for 3B Mike Olt, RHP Justin Grimm, RHP Neil Ramirez and RHP Carl Edwards Jr. Obviously, fans are well aware of the mass overpay Texas made for Garza, but the abilities, injury risks and likely hard line Beane will take to acquire Kazmir make this deal pretty comparable.
Olt was considered a top three prospect at the time thanks to his power potential and defensive ability at a premium position like third base, but he may have been downgraded a bit at the time of the trade due to vision problems that affected his contact skills. Grimm was a top five prospect who profiled as a No. 3 starter due to good velocity, but weaker secondary stuff. Edwards Jr. and Ramirez were top 15-20 prospects with solid stuff, but both were questioned for their consistency and in Ramirez his ability to stay healthy. The Cubs saw enough in Ramirez to include him in the deal and the organization really liked the pitcher known at the time as C.J. Edwards.
Brandon McCarthy is another pitcher where injuries have derailed his career and his market despite being a pitcher who consistently gets hitters out and eats innings when he is healthy. At the deadline last year, he was traded from the Arizona Diamondbacks to the New York Yankees for LHP Vidal Nuno. McCarthy’s ERA at 5.01 was not very good, but his FIP at 2.89 suggested that he pitched much better than traditional stats may have indicated. Nuno, at 26 was too old to be included among Yankees prospect lists, but was scouted as a pitcher with a decent arsenal, but most likely a long reliever than starter. The main draw to Nuno was the team control until 2019.
Based on the trades mentioned, Scott Kazmir is probably valued between the Garza and Liriano trades. The Cubs history with Beane may require a little bit of an overpay, but his injury this year probably gets him closer to his true value of a top seven and two intriguing top 15 prospects. Potential guys could be a deal headlined by Albert Almora, Jr. or Pierce Johnson and including a Dan Vogelbach, Armando Rivero, Jeimer Candelario and Jen-Ho Tseng. As always, it all depends on how close the front office thinks they are to contention.
With the team currently sitting in third, but with the Cardinals weakened by injuries, a pitcher like Scott Kazmir may put them over the top, but with his history, might not be a safe player to bet the farm on.
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