Deal valued at $48M, includes opt-out clause after 2016
By Ken Gurnick
LOS ANGELES -- Zack Greinke scrambled the offseason by opting out of his contract and leaving this month, but Dodgers general manager Farhan Zaidi on Wednesday gave pitcher Scott Kazmir an opt-out clause in his new contract and explained why it "makes sense on both sides."
Kazmir signed a three-year deal for $48 million (to be paid over six years) but can leave after the 2016 season. Zaidi said the Dodgers are fine with that because they have a group of young starters -- Julio Urias, Jose De Leon, Frankie Montas and Jharel Cotton -- who could contribute in 2016 and "certainly by 2017."
Zaidi said the opt-out was important to Kazmir, because next winter's free-agent class is expected to be "a good seller's market." The Dodgers believe that provides the pitcher plenty of motivation to succeed in 2016. And if he leaves, the club would receive a compensatory Draft pick without giving one up to sign him, because he was not subject to a qualifying offer after this past season.
Kazmir, who turns 32 next month, went 7-11 with a 3.10 ERA in 31 starts for Oakland and Houston this year. A three-time All-Star, he is 98-90 with a 3.96 ERA in 11 big-league seasons.
Zaidi didn't rule out adding another starter by trade or free agency, and he appears to have struck quickly. Multiple reports on Thursday night indicated the Dodgers have reached a long-term deal with free-agent Japanese right-hander Kenta Maeda. Right-handed starter Brandon McCarthy, recovering from Tommy John surgery, is not expected back until the All-Star break.
Without a trade, Hyun-Jin Ryu would make it five, if he heals in time from left shoulder surgery to open the season in the rotation.
With that in mind, it's worth noting how the Dodgers' rivals in the National League West stack up against left-handed starting pitching.
The Giants had the most success against southpaw starters in 2015, going 22-22. The Padres were next at 19-21, followed by the D-backs (19-22) and Rockies (11-32).
The Giants, however, no longer employ two players with solid career numbers against lefty starters in Nori Aoki (.325) and Marlon Byrd (.281). Ditto for the Rockies, with Justin Morneau (.275) and Wilin Rosario (.283) now free agents. The D-backs also traded away Ender Inciarte and his career. 295 average against lefty starters.
As it stands now, Padres outfielder Jon Jay (.296) has the best career splits against lefty starters of any player new to the NL West for the 2016 season.
The deal reunites Kazmir with Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman and Zaidi, the lefty having pitched for their clubs with Tampa Bay and Oakland, respectively.
Zaidi dismissed the significance of Kazmir's left-handedness, saying his splits are "balanced" against right-handed and left-handed hitters because of a quality changeup. Zaidi also indicated he isn't obsessed with which arm a pitcher throws.
"From our standpoint, we just want to find five guys with the best chance and go from there," he said.
Zaidi indicated he's at least equally focused on acquiring a veteran reliever for a bullpen of mostly young arms. And he confirmed for the first time the agreement to acquire reliever Aroldis Chapman, which was called off when Chapman came under investigation for domestic violence allegations. Chapman has since been traded by Cincinnati to the Yankees.
"As details came to light," Zaidi said, "we were just not comfortable making the move. We made a decision based on the information at hand, we stand by it and moved on from there."
In addition to Tampa Bay, Oakland and Houston, Kazmir has pitched with the Angels and Indians. Kazmir, who was originally selected by the Mets in the first round of the 2002 Draft, has had double-digit wins in seven of his 11 seasons.
To make room on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers designated for assignment outfielder Daniel Fields, who had been claimed off waivers from Milwaukee this month.
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
During the past two seasons, Kazmir has started out strong (2.43 first-half ERA) before faltering down the stretch (4.60 second-half ERA). His late-season fade was especially pronounced last year, when he posted a 6.52 ERA across six September starts. But with a collective 3.54 ERA and 1.23 WHIP over the past three campaigns, Kazmir has proven to be a useful mixed-league rotation member, even if he cannot be counted on for six effective months. Now set to enjoy the benefits for working for a competitive team with a pitcher-friendly home park in the Senior Circuit, the southpaw is in an advantageous position as he attempts to extend his recent run of success.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.