It seems like an eternity, but it’s only been just shy of two years since the Dodgers signed veteran southpaw starter Scott Kazmir to a 3-year/$48 million deal that left many fans excited about a prospective rotation upgrade.
At the time, the Los Angeles rotation was in a semi-rebuilding state, and there really wasn’t much to write home about outside of staff ace Clayton Kershaw. Before the 2016 season began, left-handers Brett Anderson and Alex Wood figured to be prominent parts of the starting crew; however, a large epidemic of injuries would eventually force management to utilize arms like Carlos Frias, Mike Bolsinger, Bud Norris and Nick Tepesch during different intervals of the year.
When he was initially signed, Kaz was coming off a season when he went 7-11 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.208 WHIP in 31 starts between Oakland and Houston, recording 155 strikeouts and 59 walks in 183 innings of work. Prior to that, nagging injuries led to inconsistencies from 2008-2011, and eventually forced Kazmir out of the MLB entirely. He latched on with the Indians during the 2013 season and went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA over 29 starts. The following season with the Athletics, he posted a 15-9 record over 190-1/3 innings and 32 starts.
His career as a Dodger started out relatively decent in 2016, as he and newly acquired righty Kenta Maeda were the workhorses of the rotation early in the year, as they both performed admirably during the summer months when Kershaw was on the shelf with back issues. Kazmir’s body would never hold up throughout the entire 2016 campaign, though, as he was forced to the disabled list in August with neck and back issues. After the season was said and done, he made 26 starts, having gone 10-6 with a 4.56 ERA, but he averaged just a mere 5-1/3 innings per outing.
His contract gave him the chance to opt out after the 2016 season and pursue free agency, but the Houston native decided to stay with the Blue Crew with a optimistic attitude for 2017.
“Bottom line, this is the place I want to be,” Kazmir said during 2017 spring training. “I’m three weeks ahead of schedule. I want to be at the top of that rotation. The way things went last year, I have a chip on my shoulder, and I want to prove to the fans and the front office that brought me here that they made the right decision.”
Regardless of his optimism, it was only a few weeks into 2017 Cactus League play when the lefty started having problems with his hip, which would ultimately prevent him from making a single big league appearance all season.
Things got so bad, that the team sent him to a “body mechanics” specialist in July with hopes of getting him back on track, but after making a few rehab starts in early autumn, Kazmir seemingly faded into the sunset as his teammates embarked on a deep run into the postseason.
Now, as 2018 spring training is quickly approaching, many fans are wondering what lies ahead for the soon-to-be 34-year-old southpaw.
An early version of the Los Angeles 2018 starting five sets up as Kershaw as the headliner, followed by Wood and Rich Hill, with Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu at the back-end—an identical model of the rotation that carried the team to first half success in 2017 before the arrival of Yu Darvish. Veteran righty Brandon McCarthy will also be around, as he is embarking on the final year of a 4-year/$48 million dollar deal, although a club option for 2019 does exist. Brock Stewart will once again begin as the spare arm on the fringe, while Walker Buehler may get some looks at some point in the year. If this is the season that he can stay healthy, righty sinkerballer Trevor Oaks may finally garner some consideration to make his long-awaited big league debut as well.
If he’s healthy, and as long as he shows some type of value early, Kazmir will be part of the picture also, at least in the beginning of the season. If injuries persist and the mechanical problems stay prevalent, though, it wouldn’t be surprising if he becomes a DFA candidate, as spots on the club’s 40-man roster will certainly be at a premium. In similar situations in previous years, the front office showed no mercy in eating the exorbitant salaries of players like Brian Wilson, Brandon League and Carl Crawford.
For now, the best things that Kaz can do are to keep himself fit and limber, while maintaining a positive attitude heading into 2018 spring camp. Yet, even if he’s firing on all cylinders, there are absolutely no guarantees for a roster spot, especially when considering the depth of the organization’s starting pitching.