Athletics

A's free agent signing anniversary: Scott Kazmir

kazmir.jpg
USATSI

A's free agent signing anniversary: Scott Kazmir

Tuesday marks the five-year anniversary of the A's signing Scott Kazmir to a two-year, $22 million free agent contract.

Kazmir, who was 29 at the time, had already made two All-Star Game appearances from his years in Tampa Bay, and the left-hander did not disappoint in Oakland. In his first season with the A's, Kazmir went 15-9 with a 3.55 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 32 starts, earning his third career All-Star selection.

Kazmir pitched even better in 2015, going 5-5 with a 2.38 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in his first 18 starts. However, the A's fell out of playoff contention and traded Kazmir to the Astros for Daniel Mengden and Jacob Nottingham.

Kazmir has always had talent. He started his career with the Rays, maintaining an ERA under four in each of his first four full seasons. But he struggled as a member of the Angels from 2009 to 2011, and it appeared his big league career might be over.

[RELATED: Remembering A's free-agent signing of Brandon Moss]

In 2012, with no Major League offers, Kazmir signed with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League as he tried to regain his form. The Cleveland Indians signed him to a minor-league deal the following year and Kazmir eventually found his way back to the Majors, going 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 2013 and finishing third in AL Comeback Player of the Year voting.

Kazmir took it to another level in Oakland, finishing his A's stint at 20-14 with a 3.12 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, more than living up to his contract.

As we spin it forward to this offseason, the A's are once again looking for starting pitching in free agency. Billy Beane and company have had some success with reclamation projects beyond Kazmir -- just look at Edwin Jackson last season. We'll see if the A's can work their magic one more time.
 

Why Astros' bans ending in 2020 despite MLB hiatus stings for A's fans

Why Astros' bans ending in 2020 despite MLB hiatus stings for A's fans

We're currently in the midst of unprecedented times due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

But sports have faced major setbacks, with postponements and cancellations affecting leagues worldwide. MLB has not played a regular-season game, and the date of Opening Day still is undetermined. And yet, the Houston Astros, who were scheduled to face the A’s this week, might get a small break due to the delay.

Former Houston manager AJ Hinch and ex-general manager Jeff Luhnow’s one-year suspensions would be served this year, whether an MLB season is played or not. 

ESPN’s Buster Olney reported Thursday, citing a source, that MLB will view both Hinch and Luhnow serving their discipline this year in 2020 because the suspensions were tied to the end of the upcoming postseason.

The league also announced the Astros would lose their first and second-round picks in the 2020 and 2021 MLB Draft as part of the disciplinary actions, and they also were fined $5 million. 

Astros owner Jim Crane then took an additional step and fired the two. 

With the A’s originally set to face the reigning AL champions this week in Oakland, it would have created many storylines centered around Mike Fiers.

Fiers was the whistleblower who exposed the Astros of their cheating ways during their 2017 World Series run. This subjected him to much scrutiny from fans, but Fiers also was dubbed a hero to those around the game.

For now, the earliest the season could start is around mid-May. That’s in addition to agreement between the league and the MLB Players Association that states the season cannot begin until there are no bans on mass gatherings, no travel restrictions and medical experts have determined games will not post a risk to the health of teams and fans.

The Astros-A’s series could have been the series that set the tone for the rest of the season across the league

[RELATED: What Canha misses most about baseball during hiatus]

It appears that the tone is different now. Not because baseball hasn’t started yet, but Hinch and Luhnow would be getting a free pass in a way. None of us are playing baseball right now. 

That has Hinch and Luhnow waiting around, just like the rest of us. 

Five A's takeaways in week of MLB simulation, including red-hot start

Five A's takeaways in week of MLB simulation, including red-hot start

The regular season has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, so all we have is the next best thing with Baseball-Reference's simulated season.

B-R announced on what would have been MLB’s Opening Day that they are teaming up with Out of the Park Baseball 21. This was a way for fans to continue to get their baseball fix, and B-R made sure to ask those on Twitter for help as well as using artificial intelligence to make trades and transactions throughout the season. 

To that extent, Yasiel Puig is now on the Giants -- so let’s get weird. Reminder, that last part is part of the simulation. Puig is not on the Giants ... at the moment. 

So buckle up. 

Here are five A’s takeaways from the first week of MLB simulation.

Chad Pinder wins 2B role

For Oakland, the first thing of note is the second base situation. 

During spring training, the everyday job at the position was Franklin Barreto’s to lose, and in the sim, it appeared Chad Pinder was getting a bit more time at the position than perhaps we would have anticipated. He even started at second base on “Opening Day,” with Jesús Luzardo starting on the bump.

For now, super-utility guy Pinder is batting .231/.444/.923 with three home runs.

Perhaps this was the right move, after all.

(Yes, I know -- this isn’t real).

Tony Kemp also was looking to be in the second base mix as a lefty platoon bat, and he started in two games and got a couple of hits in seven plate appearances. 

Luzardo, by the way, started in two sim games. In 7 1/3 innings, he struck out 11 and gave up six hits.

Khris Davis back?

A's designated hitter Khris Davis has a couple dingers to his name in the first eight games of the season. He’s not quite hitting .247 yet, but he’ll get there.

Marcus Semien once again won’t sit out

A’s shortstop Marcus Semien is leading the home run category with five(?!), and also is batting .267/.371/.800 in 35 plate appearances.

Semien has started in all eight games thus far, and expect that to be the case throughout the season. He doesn’t know how to sit out.

He told NBC Sports California earlier in the year he spoke to A’s manager Bob Melvin about how it had been a personal career goal of his to start in all 162 games. He did that last season, and perhaps he wants to do it again.

Chris Bassitt is your guy

Another note is Chris Bassitt got the nod as a starter against the Twins. He was a possible guy to round out a six-man rotation, but it appears the team stuck to five. He got the win against Minnesota on Sunday, when he gave up six hits in 6 1/3 frames, his only blemish a home run to Byron Buxton.

Last season, Bassitt graciously took over a bullpen role when Blake Treinen struggled with a back injury, with Liam Hendriks serving as a lights-out closer.

[RELATED: A's-Astros series could have set tone for season]

No A.J. Puk

In additional pitching nuggets, A.J. Puk doesn’t have any action in the simulation thus far this season. He had faced a minor setback during spring training after being shut down due to a mild shoulder strain (this isn’t part of the simulation, this actually happened). An MRI revealed no structural damage at the beginning of March, but it was unclear at that time when he would start throwing again.

Melvin said Puk would work on getting stronger before getting back to throwing again.

For now, the Mariners and the A’s are currently leading the AL West standings with a 7-1 record, and the A's swept the Astros at home. 

Why not?