Which of Scott Kazmir's Final Suitors Needs Him the Most?

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterDecember 22, 2015

Houston Astros' Scott Kazmir delivers a pitch against the Texas Rangers in the first inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 25, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
Pat Sullivan/Associated Press

Perhaps because there are other things going on this time of year, it sure seems like Major League Baseball's offseason market has slowed to a crawl.

Save for one exception. From the sound of it, the situation is moving toward a conclusion in Scott Kazmir's corner of the market.

The veteran left-hander is a free agent fresh off a 3.10 ERA with the Oakland A's and Houston Astros in 2015, so it wasn't surprising to hear Jon Heyman of CBS Sports report that Kazmir has received multiple three-year offers worth $12 million-$13 million per year.

Courtesy of Bob Nightengale of USA Today, we now have an idea of where these offers are coming from:

Bob Nightengale @BNightengale

The #Royals, #Athletics, #Stlcards, #Orioles and #Nats are finalists for FA starter Scott Kazmir. Nothing imminent yet.

Bob Nightengale @BNightengale

Yes and #Astros among the finalists for Kazmir

This list of six teams can be bumped down to five. According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, the A's were removed from the mix when they picked up Henderson Alvarez.

As for the five finalists in the running, one can see Kazmir signing with any one of them. He shouldn't be too expensive for any of the five. And because a midseason trade barred him from receiving a qualifying offer, none of his suitors will be scared off by ties to draft-pick compensation.

So, there's a pretty good chance the team that simply needs Kazmir the most will be the one that signs him. As far as that goes, here's how his final suitors rank in terms of where he's needed most.

5. Washington Nationals

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

With Jordan Zimmermann lost to free agency and Doug Fister presumably to follow, the Nationals' starting rotation is looking a bit thinner than usual.

But it could still look worse. Washington's front three of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez could be one of the best in the National League, and Tanner Roark and Joe Ross are a solid back end. Roark was an elite starter as recently as 2014, and Ross showed in 2015 that he has stuff reminiscent of his older brother, Tyson.

The problem is that these five are all the Nationals have for now. While they do have top prospect Lucas Giolito waiting in the wings, bringing in an extra starter like Kazmir would hardly be the worst idea in the world for the Nats.

But considering they don't really need Kazmir, whether Washington is better off spending money elsewhere is a good question. For example, it arguably needs outfield and middle infield depth more than it needs starting pitching depth.

So, let's head to Kazmir's last known location instead...

4. Houston Astros

HOUSTON, TX - JULY 30:  Scott Kazmir fans celebrate after Jason Castro of the Houston Astros hit a three-run home run in the ninth inning to end the game and defeat the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 3-0 during their game at Minute Maid Park on July 30, 20
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

In case anyone's wondering, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow doesn't feel obliged to re-sign Kazmir to justify trading for him over the summer.

“We traded for Kazmir because we wanted Kazmir for the balance of 2015 and for the playoffs,” Luhnow said in November, via Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. “That’s independent of who we see Kazmir as as a free-agent candidate for us going forward. The two aren’t linked. I think it would be irresponsible of me to want to sign him moreso just to justify a trade that is already over. I mean, that trade is over."

If the Astros are going to re-sign Kazmir, it will be because they're uncomfortable with their rotation as it is.

And the thing about that, you see, is their rotation is pretty good. Dallas Keuchel just won the American League Cy Young Award, and he's backed by a solid trio in Collin McHugh, Mike Fiers and Lance McCullers Jr. If Scott Feldman can stay healthy, Houston's rotation will also have a solid No. 5.

Of course, that Feldman started only 18 games in 2015 makes that a big if. And where he comes with a durability question mark, Fiers and McCullers come with consistency question marks.

That may not be enough to justify what it would cost to sign Kazmir, though—especially in light of how the Astros don't figure to rely too heavily on their starting pitching going forward, as they also have a powerful offense, a strong defense and, thanks to the Ken Giles trade, a deeper bullpen.

So, let's move on.

3. Kansas City Royals

David J. Phillip/Associated Press

The Royals have retained one starting pitcher this winter, re-signing Chris Young to a two-year contract. But the bigger story is the loss of Johnny Cueto, who is notably better than Young.

Of course, the Royals only got to experience that firsthand in spurts in 2015, as Cueto was extremely up-and-down after they acquired him in a July trade. But if nothing else, Cueto is an innings eater. After their rotation finished 24th in innings pitched in 2015, the Royals do need one of those.

They'll be lucky if they can find one from within. With Edinson Volquez and Yordano Ventura leading the charge, Kansas City's rotation is solid up top. But after them come Kris Medlen, Danny Duffy and Young, which is not such a solid trio.

But like the Astros, the Royals at least have a pretty good team around their starting rotation. Even if they also lose outfielder Alex Gordon to free agency, they should pitch, hit and field pretty well in 2016. They also play in an AL Central where they aren't exactly looking up at anyone.

So, let's go next door instead...

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Billy Hurst/Associated Press

It makes perfect sense that the Cardinals are taking a look at Kazmir. After losing Lance Lynn to Tommy John surgery and John Lackey to free agency, they are in the market for a reliable starter.

Mind you, St. Louis' rotation still looks good on paper. It's led by Adam Wainwright and contains Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia. That's a talented foursome.

Talented, yes, but also potentially rickety. Wainwright is headed for his age-34 season in 2016, and the other three all come with durability question marks. And beneath the four of them, the Cardinals' starting pitching depth leaves much to be desired. 

Kazmir could help ease that concern. And as Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com argued, there's no point in worrying about a potential logjam that signing him could create in the near future:

The Cardinals, aware that you can never have too much pitching, are not ruling out signing/acquiring a pitcher with multiple years of control. While yes, this could present a logjam in 2017 when you consider the crop of rising young pitchers in the organization, also keep in mind that Lynn and Garcia will be free agents after that season. That means that the Cardinals will need to restock at some point, and if they like the options available now, they can work through surplus to assure coverage down the road.

There's another reason why the Cardinals should be in on Kazmir. The way the Chicago Cubs have loaded up this offseason, the Cardinals have some keeping up to do in the NL Central.

However, they don't need Kazmir quite as badly as the...

1. Baltimore Orioles

Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

One idea for the Orioles would be to simply re-sign Wei-Yin Chen, who was pretty good for them in his four seasons with the club (3.72 ERA, 706.2 IP).

But, yeah. About that, here's Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports: 

Roch Kubatko @masnRoch

Fans who keep asking if #orioles might re-sign Wei-Yin Chen: Hear he's seeking 5 years, $100 mil. So....no. It's clear team has moved on

Kazmir makes sense as an alternative to Chen. Beyond being considerably cheaper, he's been about as good as Chen over the last couple of years.

And a pitcher as good as Chen is the least that Baltimore's starting rotation needs. It finished 22nd in ERA with Chen in 2015 and now consists of just Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Ubaldo Jimenez, Kevin Gausman and Mike Wright. Of the five, only Tillman makes the grade as reliable.

In light of that, it's no wonder that FanGraphs projects only two teams will get fewer wins above replacement from their starting pitching than the Orioles in 2016. If Baltimore signs him, it'll be patching up a rotation that's in dire straits.

They'd also be giving themselves a fighting chance in the AL East. With Chris Davis also testing the free-agent waters and the Boston Red Sox joining the Toronto Blue Jays at the top of the division, the Orioles need as much help as they can get. 

Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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