Scott Kazmir is nice. Quite fine, even.
But Scott Kazmir is not enough to fix what is becoming a more uninspiring offseason by the day for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers, three-time defending National League West champions, agreed to a three-year, $48 million contract with the left-handed Kazmir, according to Fox Sports' Jon Morosi:
On its own, the deal is solid, as the soon-to-be 32-year-old owns a respectable 3.33 ERA over the last two seasons.
But in the vacuum that is the Dodgers' offseason, one that has seen them let Zack Greinke walk to a rival and Aroldis Chapman's domestic issues sully a blockbuster trade and Hisashi Iwakuma's balky medicals nix their agreement, this deal for Kazmir is not enough to say the Dodgers are the favorites in the remade and highly competitive NL West.
The opt-out after one year shows that Kazmir would like to re-establish his value with a good 2016 and that the Dodgers just need a stopgap starter before their young minor league pitchers mature enough to take on full-time roles in their rotation.
“In Scott's case, he and his representation are aware that next year's free-agent starting pitching market will probably be a pretty good seller's market," Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi told reporters. "From our standpoint, we have a lot of good young pitching that we feel is going to be ready to contribute at some point in 2016 and certainly by 2017."
The problem is Kazmir, if he is not a front-line arm the way he was for the Oakland A’s during the first half of last season, is not the kind of piece that gives the Dodgers a major boost. In fact, if he pitches like he did down the stretch for the Houston Astros, he is a liability.
As of now, the Dodgers are not a bad club, despite what knee-jerk analysts, misinformed fans and radio talking heads might have you believe.
This team was among the best offensive clubs in baseball last season, and that was with Yasiel Puig out or playing hurt for the majority of 2015. And the offense stands to improve next season if All-Star center fielder Joc Pederson can become more disciplined as a power threat and rookie shortstop Corey Seager produces more than Jimmy Rollins did last season, which shouldn't be difficult.
Then there is Puig, a player who the misguided believe should be on the scrap heap for offenses no more serious than him being a youthful headache. But he won't even make $20 million in base salary over the next three years, and when he's been healthy, he has been among the best. That last part is undeniable.
Oh, and there is Clayton Kershaw, the best thrower of a baseball on the planet. Also undeniable. Plus a dominant closer in Kenley Jansen, even if the rest of the bullpen is seriously suspect.
So people should be inclined to stop bashing the Dodgers as an afterthought within their own division. They might not be the favorite before the new year rings in, but they do not stink to the high heavens.
Kazmir affirms that. He could end up as a quality lefty, one battle-tested in the more difficult American League last season.
In fact, why Kazmir wasn't more coveted in a market thirsty for pitching is a bit of a mystery. He is aged and he did have a rugged end to 2015, pitching to a gruesome 5.89 ERA over his final nine starts for the Astros (he had a 2.12 ERA over his first 22 starts between the A’s and Astros). But he's healthy and capable, and he can help the Dodgers if he pitches as he did before his late-season collapse.
However, the Dodgers needed more than help this offseason. They needed significant impact considering they lost Greinke, arguably the best pitcher in the majors last season. And ideally, they needed a right-handed starting pitcher since, with Kazmir, the rotation might be entirely left-handed come Opening Day, though the Dodgers front office does not see that as a major negative.
“That’s something we’ve discussed over the course of the offseason,” Zaidi told reporters of the all-lefty rotation. “It sets you up for a situation where having some balance in the bullpen makes some sense, because you’re going to see a certain type of lineup day-in, day-out when you have an extreme rotation one way or another.”
Chapman would have provided that impact and excitement. Johnny Cueto or Andrew Miller would have, too. A deal for Jose Fernandez was always a pipe dream, but Carlos Carrasco or Danny Salazar had potential.
Instead, the Dodgers are driving a fall and winter that to this point have done little other than disappoint onlookers, and possibly themselves, as Chapman and Iwakuma appeared to be in the bag. The consolation prize is Kazmir and a bunch of little-to-nothing signings and trades, although their prospect package in the Todd Frazier trade was applauded and they could still win the bidding war for Kenta Maeda.
That does not mean the Dodgers should be written off as also-rans. They have a quality roster, one that most other GMs in the game would swap for their own right now. But this franchise is not in the business of simply being better than most.
It exists to win World Series titles. Kazmir could end up contributing to that, but as of right now, he is the Dodgers’ major acquisition and does not make them a pennant favorite in what is still a lackluster offseason.
All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.
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