Scott Kazmir signs two-year, $22 million contract with A’s

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UPDATE: Jim Bowden of ESPN.com says it’s a two-year, $22 million deal, which is a sneaky/interesting move for the A’s in a market where Ricky Nolasco just got $49 million for four years and guys like Phil Hughes and Jason Vargas got $8 million per season for three and four years.

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Recent reports suggested the A’s weren’t feeling good about their chances of re-signing Bartolo Colon and apparently they’ve moved on in a big way: According to Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com they’re “close to signing” left-hander Scott Kazmir.

Kazmir was a dominant young starter with the Rays and then rapidly deteriorated to the point that he posted a 5.34 ERA in independent ball at age 28. He made an incredible comeback with the Indians, racking up strikeouts at the same rate that made him a star in the first place, and finished strong with a 43/4 K/BB ratio in September.

Kazmir is a huge risk, but he’s still just 29 and looked an awful lot like his old self this year. Based purely on upside, he’s one of the best free agent pitchers available this offseason and certainly brings a much different skill set and long-term outlook to the table than the 40-year-old Colon.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.