Kazmir contract gives Dodgers wealth of options
After spending the last few months discussing the Dodgers need for starting pitching, LA inked lefty Scott Kazmir not long before parts of the world saw in the New Year. Interestingly enough, this move seemed to get very little attention despite it filling such a well documented vacancy. Perhaps it’s because Kazmir isn’t the highest profile arm in baseball, perhaps people were focused on last minute New Years preparations but this move did seem to fly under the radar a little. Admittedly on the surface this move does seem a little vanilla but when you look a little deeper, it’s actually one of the more interesting moves this off-season.
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Let’s start, first off, by looking at the contract details. The Dodgers landed the 31 year old Kazmir for 3 years/$48M – just a touch more than what had reportedly been committed to Hisashi Iwakuma. That seems to be right around market value for a pitcher like Kazmir, perhaps a couple of million lower than predicted by some. He also didn’t cost a draft pick as he wasn’t eligible for the qualifying offer, which means the Dodgers get three picks before the 2nd round this year.
That’s all pretty standard but what is fascinating here is that the Dodgers granted Kazmir an opt-out after just one year.
Now this was almost certainly pushed by Kazmir’s side as he looks to take advantage of a very weak FA market next year but it actually works out perfectly for the Dodgers – for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it has been well documented that the Dodgers farm system is loaded with premium quality arms that could be big league ready as early as this season (Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, Grant Holmes, Jharell Cotton and Frankie Montas all come to mind). Kazmir opting out of his contract at the end of the season gives LA a great chance to give some of these guys a real look at the Opening Day rotation in 2017, without hurting the rotation in 2016. Whilst not all top prospects pan out, the Dodgers have so many, that at least one of them is bound to stick (touch wood) and all of them have some serious upside. Structuring the deal like this means that the Dodgers can add to an already deep rotation in 2016, while making the transition to a very exciting home grown rotation in the near future.
The second point here, is that if Kazmir did opt-out next off-season, the Dodgers would likely give him a Qualifying Offer which would net them yet another 1st round pick next year. This could potentially give the Dodgers five 1st round picks in 2017 as Justin Turner, Brett Anderson and Kenley Jansen are also FA’s at the end of next season. Having 8 first-round picks in 2 years would put the Dodgers in a great spot going forward, although they would likely lose a couple in filling some of those holes. The Dodgers have repeatedly stated that they wish to get younger and more sustainable in order to maximise their window to contend and this Kazmir signing is the perfect example of this front office getting creative to achieve just that. This is even more important as the Dodgers will have a $300k spending limit on international prospects for the next two years, as they exceeded their bonus pool in 2015. This allows them to continue adding high-end talent into a minor league system that is already one of the best in baseball.
The final point of interest is that with this signing (and the reported signing of Kenta Maeda), the Dodgers now have a surplus in their rotation and to help address other holes on the roster, the Dodgers could be well served by dealing from that depth. The most likely trade candidate here is almost certainly Alex Wood who still has 3 arbitration years remaining before free agency and at just 24, is the type of young, cost controlled arm teams covet. While there are some red flags with Wood, moving him could potentially go a long way towards solidifying the bullpen or adding a better option at 2nd base. It’s a little too early to speculate just who might be interested in acquiring the young lefty but from the Dodgers point of view Mark Melancon, Andrew Miller and Drew Storen are all potential targets (note the Dodgers would possibly need to include more than Wood). Of course, the Dodgers could always relegate him to the bullpen, giving them another quality young arm for the rotation in 2017 – a perfectly reasonable choice. In any case, any move to trade wood would likely come closer to spring training, when the Dodgers can be a little more confident in the health of Hyun-Jin Ryu.
So whilst this move looks boring on the surface, it plugs a short-term hole while putting the team in a great position in the longer-term, in a characteristically interesting way. As we discussed earlier, Kazmir is a talented starter who will give the Dodgers plenty of quality innings in 2016. Kazmir should hold his value over the three year deal but if he chooses to opt-out at seasons end, the Dodgers will be happy to take the extra draft pick and roster flexibility. Whether the Dodgers get three years out of Kazmir or supplant him with one of their exciting young prospects, this deal provides the Dodgers with plenty of value.