Last offseason the Indians took a chance on Scott Kazmir, giving him a minor league contract with an invite to spring training – and the gamble paid off. Kazmir was able to revive his career in Cleveland, even though he spent 2012 out of the major leagues and in the independent league. In 2013, Kazmir went 10-9 with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP and may have priced himself out of Cleveland for the 2014 season. If the Indians are unable to bring Kazmir and Jimenez back, they’re going to need to find some additional options for the starting rotation.
Every year, teams (particularly small and mid-market teams) take a number of gambles on reclamation projects. Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. Even though the Indians may not be able to bring Kazmir back next year, could they find a new Kazmir for the 2014 season? Here are a few potential reclamation and buy-low candidates that could have a resurgence in 2014.
Johan Santana – Once an ace with the Twins, he was plagued with injuries during his time with the Mets. After spending the 2013 season on the DL, the Mets recently spent $5.5 million to buy out his 2014 option. Even though they haven’t ruled out a reunion, it sounds as if both parties may be ready to move on. Santana could be a great buy-low option, but is trying to return from his second surgery to repair a torn anterior capsule in his shoulder. At age 35, it may be tough for him to physically recover and look like the Santana of old. However, if he remains healthy, he could be a solid option for the back of a rotation, if nothing else.
Josh Johnson – Part of the mega-deal that sent what seemed like half of the Marlins’ roster to Toronto last offseason, Johnson really struggled north of the border. He had taken a step back with the Marlins in 2012, compared to his 2011 and 2010 seasons; it was still nothing compared to his 2-8, 6.20 ERA, 1.66 WHIP with the Blue Jays. It was once thought that Johnson would cash in after the 2013 season, but that’s pretty unlikely now. He may try to take an incentive-laden one-year deal with someone, hoping to reestablish his value and re-enter the free agent market after the 2014 season. If the price is right, he’s an intriguing option.
Tim Hudson – He missed the second half of the 2013 season after breaking his ankle; the 38-year-old was 8-7 with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP prior to the injury. I half expect him to remain in Atlanta on a discounted deal. If the Braves pass on him, he could be an interesting veteran option if the price is right.
Barry Zito – His mega-contract with the Giants is typically seen as a failure, but that’s more because he probably never should have received such a rich deal. His brightest moment with the Giants was during the 2012 postseason; he went 5-11 with a 5.74 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP in 2013 and also had baseball’s worst WAR for a pitcher at -2.6. Even though his ERA has been north of four for most of his time in San Francisco, he’s been fairly durable for the most part. I wouldn’t expect great things from him, but it’s possible that he could eat some innings at the back of the rotation.
Jon Garland – Plagued by injuries over the past few years, he spent the entire 2012 season out of baseball. He almost signed a minor league deal with an invite to spring training with the Indians prior to the 2012 season, before the deal fell through. In 68 innings with the Rockies last season, Garland went 4-5 with a 5.82 ERA and a 1.58 WHIP before he was released on June 10. He was a bit better away from Coors Field, but still had an ERA north of 5 on the road. It may be time for Garland to call it a career, but I’m sure there were people that said the same thing about Scott Kazmir. Kazmir is several years younger than Garland though, and it may be difficult for him to find his former success. I’d consider an invite to spring training, even though he pitched to a 2.25 ERA with the Mariners in spring training in 2013 and fell apart during the regular season.
Dan Haren – He’s coming off a one-year, $13 million deal with the Washington Nationals and owned the worst ERA in the majors at one point during the 2013 season. Haren’s stats were kind of all over the place – his WHIP was a respectable 1.23, but he had the highest rate of home runs surrendered in the National League. He did spend a chunk of time on the DL last year, and has been a dangerous pitcher during much of his career. It sounds as if Haren did not like being on the east coast away from his family, so he may look to head to a team on the west coast. At the same time, it seems like he realizes his poor season doesn’t leave him with an overabundance of options. He’s an intriguing buy-low option.
Roy Halladay – The former Cy Young winner hit hard times in Philadelphia – a shoulder injury led to a number of struggles on the mound. His velocity is way down and he struggled for command at times. He threw just 62 innings in 2013, going 4-5 with a 6.82 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. The 36-year-old isn’t ready to retire, so he’ll likely look for an incentive-laden deal from someone. It sounds like the Phillies have some interest in bringing him back at the right price, but perhaps he’d be willing to give the American League another shot.
Jeff Karstens – Re-signed by the Pirates for 2013, he spent the entire year injured and never pitched in the majors. Karstens put up good numbers in 2011 and 2012, although he’s been plauged by injuries during that time. I’d be happy to see the Indians take a chance on him, although I’m not optimistic that he would remain healthy for the entire season.
Daisuke Matsuzaka – Dice-K actually signed a minor league deal with the Indians last offseason, but was still recovering from Tommy John surgery. Plus he dealt with injuries during spring training. Eventually, the Indians granted him his release toward the end of August so he could pitch for the Mets. He struggled in his first few starts with New York, but by the end of the season he seemed to find his groove. Over his final four games he did not allow more than 2 ER, and pitched 5+ innings each time. When he faced the Indians on September 8, he held them to just one run on three hits over 5.2 innings pitched. Since he’ll be another year removed from Tommy John surgery, I think the 33-year-old could be an intriguing buy-low option. He’s familiar with Terry Francona and cut a deal with the Indians last offseason. Perhaps he would be willing to do the same this offseason?
James McDonald – Traded to the Pirates from the Dodgers for Octavio Dotel in 2010, McDonald had a run of great starts in Pittsburgh before he appeared to run out of gas last season after the All Star Break. The Pirates ended up releasing him in September of 2013; he had barely appeared in the majors this season and had a 6.00+ ERA for most of the year with Pittsburgh’s various minor league clubs. When McDonald was good, he was great. I’m not sure if that was a flash in the pan, or something that he could get back to.
Jake Westbrook – Westbrook pitched from the Indians from 2001 to 2010; he came to the team from the Yankees in the 2000 David Justice trade, and was traded to the Cardinals for Corey Kluber in 2010. Rather than exercise his $9.5 million option for 2014, the Cardinals instead chose to buy it out for $1 million. Westbrook, 36, saw a decline during the 2013 season, when compared to 2012 – in 2013 he went 7-8 with a 4.63 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP. He could be a cheap veteran option for the Indians at the back end of the rotation.
Edinson Volquez – At one point it looked like the sky was the limit for the now 30-year-old Volquez, who was traded to the Reds from the Rangers after the 2007 season for Josh Hamilton. He responded by going 17-6 with a 3.21 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP for the Reds in 2008. By the end of his time in Cincinnati in 2011, he had an ERA that was pushing 6. He was released by the Padres at the end of August this year, and was picked up by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He did better once he moved north to LA, but at that point there was really no place to go but up – his ERA was 6.01 in San Diego. Command has been an issue for Volquez, but I want to think that someone that once had so much promise has something left in the tank.