By Jason Shetler
We all know the Pirates will be out of the market for the top starting pitcher free agents such as David Price, Zack Greinke, Johnny Cueto and Jordan Zimmermann to name a few. Last month, I did a post that listed some free agent starters who the Pirates could realistically pursue. After looking at those names, the one free agent that I believe would be the most perfect fit for the Pirates is Scott Kazmir.
Kazmir began this year with the Oakland Athletics where he made 18 starts before getting dealt to the Houston Astros a week prior to the trade deadline and made 13 starts for them. Combined with the two clubs, Kazmir posted a 3.10 ERA with a 1.21 WHIP and held opponents to an impressive .610 OPS. He certainly performed at an All-Star level, as he put up a 130 ERA+. Here are some other reasons why Kazmir would be a perfect fit in Pittsburgh.
With Kazmir being a left-hander, he fits the PNC Park preference. Outside of Francisco Liriano, the Pirates second best left-handed option right now is Jeff Locke, which isn’t saying much. Kazmir would immediately make the rotation significantly better. The one thing Kazmir continues to do well is miss bats. This year, he posted an above average swing and miss rate of 10.3% while he got batters to chase at pitches out of the strikezone 31.7% of the time, which is a career best for him.
The most ideal starting pitching for the Pirates is a solid #3 to pitch alongside Liriano and Gerrit Cole. Kazmir had a 2.4 WAR this past season, which is good enough for a middle of the rotation starter. He’ll be entering his age 32 season in 2016, and isn’t likely to receive a long term deal, so that should work out well in the Pirates favor. One important thing to keep in mind is that Kazmir wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer since he was traded during the season. If the Pirates sign him, they don’t have to surrender their first round pick for next year. While J.A. Happ is an option for the Pirates to bring back, I personally feel that Kazmir would be the better choice, because not only could Kazmir be signed for close to the amount that Happ is projected to make at three years/$33 million, but also because Kazmir has a longer track record of success. All of these factors are why I think Scott Kazmir is the Pirates perfect fit.