(Photo Credit: mlb.com)
While it was certainly a foregone conclusion that Scott Kazmir would choose not to opt out of his current contract with the Dodgers and remain in Los Angeles next season, many fans of the club took to social media on Monday to express their disappointment with his decision to stay anyway, perhaps looking ahead to what could be a near identical starting rotation in 2017.
Ken Gurnick of mlb.com initially reported the news, citing an unnamed source regarding the information. The 32-year-old lefty has two years and $32 million remaining on the three-year deal he signed with the Dodgers last December. The original contract allowed Kazmir to opt out and become a free agent after one season.
Kazmir, who was among the few stalwarts of the pitching staff in the first half of 2016, tallied a 10-6 record with a 4.56 ERA and a 4.48 FIP along with 134 strikeouts and 52 walks in 136-1/3 innings of work over the entirety of the campaign. He was often criticized for both his high home run and walk rates, having recorded a 3.4 BB/9 and surrendering a total of 21 long balls on the year.
Kazmir made only one start after August 22 because of neck and back issues and was ultimately diagnosed with thoracic spinal inflammation in September, eliminating him from participating in the club’s playoff run.
If the Dodgers can indeed get the effective Kazmir for a good portion of next season, there’s no question the rotation would benefit. Kaz did show multiple flashes of brilliance last year, most notably in his first outing of the campaign against the Padres, where he threw six innings of one-hit, shutout ball surrendering no walks and striking out five. He also dealt a similar effort to the Cubs in May where he duplicated the six-inning shutout endeavor, walking one and allowing one hit while striking out seven. Against the Rockies in July, he fanned a season-high 10 batters during another six-inning shutout affair.
Still, the poor outings from the Houston native haunted the minds of many fans for the majority of the season, nearly reminiscent of a “Jekyll and Hyde” type of schizophrenia. His second outing of the year was dreadful, when he got rung up for six earned runs, including three long balls, in four innings of work against the Giants. Kazmir never did really find a consistent groove during the year, and it almost seemed as if an ineffective outing always followed a strong performance.
There haven’t been any recent reports of Kazmir’s current medical condition, but assuming he arrives at spring training with a clean bill of health, he can comfortably slide into a fourth slot in the starting rotation, a spot that the Dodgers seem to already have three or four different arms ready to fill. Just because Kazmir chose not to opt out, though, doesn’t mean that management can’t include him in some type of prospective trade to another team. The idea of Los Angeles not having a true No. 2 starter to compliment resident ace Clayton Kershaw has already begun to haunt the minds of many fans.
In other team news, Gurnick also reported on Monday that the club extended qualifying offers to both free agent reliever Kenley Jansen and third baseman Justin Turner. Per Gurnick, the offers, set at $17.2 million apiece, assure the Dodgers will receive draft-pick compensation if either player signs with another club with the signing team forfeiting a pick.
In addition, Tuesday morning marked the end of the five-day “quiet period,” permitting all MLB free agents the opportunity to sign with any team.