Washington Nationals Free Agent Profile: Scott Kazmir


The Washington Nationals head into the 2015-2016 offseason losing two key members of the starting rotation to free agency. Jordan Zimmermann, a staple in the Nats’ rotation since 2011, and Doug Fister, who was relegated to the bullpen last season but had a phenomenal year in 2014, leave Washington with a potential spot in the rotation to be filled. While 22-year old Joe Ross will be entering his sophomore season and likely taking over for one of them, President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo will likely be looking towards this year’s free agent class to fill the void.

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One pitcher that stands out as a potential candidate, although no rumors have been thrown around thus far, is former Houston Astro Scott Kazmir. The 31-year old, three-time All-Star, just wrapped up his 11th season in the majors after being traded to Houston by the Oakland A’s before the trade deadline. On the year, Kazmir went 7-11 with a 3.10 ERA, 1.208 WHIP, and had 155 strikeouts in 31 starts between the two ball clubs. He is a southpaw pitcher with a six-pitch repertoire, including a devastating cutter. With his fastball topping out at 97 mph, Kazmir has the ability to blow by hitters, while keeping them honest with his sinker and naturally-sinking changeup (Brooks Baseball). MLB Trade Rumors predicts his contract to hover around four years, $52 million.

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Kazmir was drafted 15th overall in the 2002 amateur draft by the New York Mets, but was traded while still in the minors to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays two years later. He made his MLB debut on August 23, 2004, and pitched in his first full season the following year. Kazmir spent five seasons in Tampa Bay before being traded to the Los Angeles Angels midseason in 2009. He pitched there until 2011, when he suddenly lost both his velocity and command, eventually leading to his release by the Angels.

Kazmir would not pitch in the major leagues in 2012, throwing bullpen sessions for numerous scouts across the league but never earning a call back. In 2013 he signed a minor league deal with the Cleveland Indians with an invite to spring training. After impressing during the preseason, Kazmir earned a spot in the Cleveland rotation, where he pitched well enough to earn a two-year deal with the A’s the following offseason.

The Washington Nationals have only had four lefties start more than five games for them in a season since 2011: Gio Gonzalez, Ross Detwiler, John Lannan, and Tom Gorzelanny. In starts by left-handed pitchers not named Gonzalez, the Nats own a combined 3.66 ERA and 5.71 K/9. Since 2011, Kazmir has pitched to a 3.61 ERA and has averaged 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings. If the Nats are looking to get better production out of left-handed starters, Kazmir would certainly fit the build.

It has not been publicly released whether or not the Nats will be pursuing top-market arms this offseason, and jumping into another long-term deal with a starting pitcher may not be in the Nats’ plans moving forward. However, Kazmir is an upper tier pitcher who won’t command a major contract such as starters like David Price and Zack Greinke. While in-house options like Tanner Roark and A.J. Cole could certainly be considered, all signs point towards the open market for the No. 5 spot in the Nats’ 2016 rotation.