Scott Kazmir isn’t getting a lot of attention from teams as he attempts to make a comeback, and understandably so.
He hasn’t pitched in the majors since April 3 of last season, when he lasted just 1 2/3 innings and gave up five runs for the Angels. Before that, he had fallen off badly after the Tampa Bay Rays traded him to Los Angeles in 2009.
He’s getting a little bit of attention now, however, from his original team, reports the New York Daily News.
The Mets planned to send a scout to a scheduled showcase in Houston for the team’s former top draft pick, Scott Kazmir, a club insider said Wednesday.
The story contains no quotes from the Mets’ “club insider,” but this is probably little more than a courtesy call. Kazmir hasn’t been good in a long time. Then again, the Mets don’t have a whole lot to lose just by looking.
The Mets drafted Kazmir in the first round in 2002, then sent the promising young left-hander to Tampa Bay in what became a notorious trade (from a Mets perspective) for mediocre veteran Victor Zambrano in 2004. It would be a heck of a story for Kazmir to make a triumphant return to New York, but it’s probably more likely that
a point guard from Harvard will come out of nowhere to light up the NBA pigs will learn to fly.
A minor-league deal with a spring training invite is about the best Kazmir can hope for at this point.
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Rafael Soriano’s agent, Scott Boras, told Andrew Marchand of ESPNNewYork.com that the former Rays closer would be willing to serve as a setup man on the Yankees, saying “that door is open for a number of different reasons.”
Here’s more from Boras on Soriano’s potential interest in setting up Mariano Rivera in New York:
I don’t think there is a team in baseball where he could be asked to be a setup guy other than the Yankees. There is also a value in playing with Mariano Rivera.
All of which sounds good, but my guess is most of Soriano’s potential interest in being a setup man for the Yankees depends on their willingness to pay him like a closer and the entire scenario is only a realistic option because he’s found the market lacking in multi-year offers to close elsewhere.
As a Type A free agent the team that signs Soriano will have to forfeit a first-round draft pick and his history of arm problems may also have scared some teams off, but he’s been healthy in back-to-back seasons and was a dominant reliever even before getting a chance to be a full-time closer in Tampa Bay, posting a 2.73 ERA with 422 strikeouts in 395 career innings.
In their ongoing effort to rebuild the bullpen the Rays “have expressed interest in” Manny Delcarmen, according to Joe Smith of the St. Petersburg Times.
Delcarmen was traded from the Red Sox to the Rockies in August and then non-tendered last month after posting a 4.99 ERA and 38/32 K/BB ratio in 52 innings between the two teams.
He was a standout setup man for Boston in 2007 and 2008, posting a 2.81 ERA with 8.6 strikeouts per nine innings during that time, but in the two seasons since then he has a 4.74 ERA and 6.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Despite his recent struggles Delcarmen still averaged 93 miles per hour with his fastball last season, so it makes sense that the Rays would try turning the 28-year-old right-hander around in a middle relief role.
Brian Fuentes has been linked to the Red Sox for most of the offseason, but now Marc Topkin of the St. Petersburg Times reports that the Rays are interested in signing the veteran southpaw to be their new closer.
Fuentes served as a setup man for the Twins down the stretch after coming over in a late-August trade, but has plenty of closing experience and racked up an average of 30 saves per season from 2005-2010, including a league-high 48 in 2009.
As a side-arming left-hander many people assume that Fuentes would fit best as a situational southpaw and he certainly shuts down left-handed hitters. However, he’s also very effective versus right-handed hitters, holding them to a .224 batting average and .684 OPS during the past three seasons.
He certainly won’t be as overpowering as the man he’d be replacing in the ninth inning, Rafael Soriano, but Fuentes’ high-80s fastball and excellent changeup have made him one of the most effective (and underrated) relievers of the past decade and even at age 34 he posted a 2.81 ERA and 47/20 K/BB ratio in 48 innings.
There hasn’t been much speculation surrounding Grant Balfour, largely because he’s a Type A free agent and most teams aren’t keen on surrendering a first-round draft pick to sign a non-closer reliever.
In fact, Balfour declining the Rays’ arbitration offer last month was viewed by many as a surprise because of how much the draft pick attached to signing him would hurt his market value.
However, teams with a pick in the top half of the first round have their pick protected, meaning they’d only lose a second-round pick for signing Balfour. That means sub-.500 teams–or above-.500 teams that have already signed another Type A guy–are his most likely suitors, so it makes sense that the Orioles have “definite interest” in Balfour, according to Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com.
He’d be used as a late-inning setup man in Baltimore after filling that same role in Tampa Bay for the past three seasons, going 13-7 with a 2.98 ERA and 207 strikeouts in 181 innings. If the draft pick compensation is scary most teams off the Orioles could get a bargain on a shutdown reliever, but their reported heavy interest in Kevin Gregg could ultimately rule out Balfour.