Mets Should Bring Scott Kazmir Home
Before there was Jarred Kelenic, there was Scott Kazmir. Back on July 30, 2004, for some reason or another, a Mets team four games under .500 and 7.5 games out of a postseason spot believed they were in it, so they traded Kazmir and Jose Diaz for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.
That trade could not have gone worse for the Mets.
First, the Mets pinned the blame on Rick Peterson for saying he worried about Kazmir’s mechanics and for saying he could fix Zambrano in a second. They blamed Kazmir for his supposedly abrasive personality. They blamed Al Leiter, Tom Glavine, John Franco, and other veterans for having issues with Kazmir’s clubhouse demeanor. They blamed everyone but the decision makers (read: Jeff Wilpon).
Zambrano would not be the key piece to the Mets rotation they wanted us all to believe. Ironically, for a team worried about Kazmir’s durability, Zambrano broke down. Over his 2+ years with the Mets, Zambrano pitched just 201.1 innings with a 94 ERA+ and 4.35 FIP.
Meanwhile, Kazmir was emerging as a top of the line starter for the Rays. He was a two time All-Star in his six years there, lead the league in strikeouts in 2007, and he helped pitch the Rays to the the 2008 and 2009 postseasons.
To be fair, Kazmir did eventually have injury problems. He recovered from them, and he was an effective starter again. He would then get injured again with his fastball dropping into the 80s leading to his eventual release in the 2017 Spring Training. He didn’t retire, and now, he is attempting a comeback.
— Kevin Poppe, CSCS (@TheKevinPoppe) February 8, 2020
With his being away for a few years, Kazmir has had time to heal and get his fastball back. If you revisit his 2016 season, his last healthy one, Baseball Savant rated extremely well in terms of strikeout rate, hard hit rate, and exit velocity. Point is, when healthy, he could pitch.
At least, right now, he appears healthy. With him now working out for teams, we will soon find out if he can pitch like he did in 2016. If so, the team who takes a chance on him could benefit.
With his being away from the game for a few years and his durability concerns, it would seem Kazmir belongs in the bullpen, which is where the Mets argued he belonged all along. If that is the case, teams should push hard to sign him.
Fact is with the new three batter reliever rule, teams will need left-handed relievers who can pitch to both right-handed and left-handed batters. Like most left-handed starters, that is Kazmir. Or better put, if healthy and has a reasonable facsimile of his stuff, that could be Kazmir.
In terms of the Mets, they really don’t have that type of reliever in the minors right now, at least not a Major League ready one. The hope is Chasen Shreve could potentially be that, but he has had shoulder issues, and he has not been the same. If nothing else, Kazmir would be extra insurance.
It could also right a wrong and could give Mets fans a little more excitement. Much like how fans rallied around Jason Isringhausen, who had a surprise rebound season in 2011, we could see the same with Kazmir in 2020. Maybe, we could see Kazmir helping pitch the Mets to the postseason like he did with the Rays and like Mets fans once hoped he would.
At the end of the day, it will likely cost the Mets just a minor league deal to find out. With that being the case, the Mets should bring him back to the organization.