In 2008 Scott Kazmir will enter his third full season with the Rays. As a result, Kid K will be in his first season (of three) of arbitration eligibility. Therefor the Rays have Kazmir for at least four more years until the earliest point that he can become a free agent. Earlier we predicted that he was the most likely candidate to receive a long-term contract this off-season. Much like Carl Crawford and Rocco Baldelli, we expect the Rays to try and lock up Kazmir through his arbitration years and into the beginning of his free agency years. Kazmir is represent by Brian Peters, who also represents Travis Hafner. Peters was able to secure a longterm contract for Hafner before his third full season. All signs are pointing to a new contract for Kazmir in the near future.
The only question at this point is how much it will cost the Rays to secure the rights to Kazmir. Well that question appears to have been answered. The Colorado Rockies have signed Jeff Francis to a 4-year, $13.25 million contract with a club option for $7 million in 2011. The option year would be Francis’ first year of free agency eligibility. In essence, the Rockies have secured Francis for the next 5 years at $20.25 million or just a shade more than $4 million per season. If Francis continues to develop into the pitcher he is projected to be, the contract will be a bargain for the Rockies.
What does this have to do with Scott Kazmir? In addition to both being young left-handed starting pitchers with a ton of promise, they have nearly identical resumes. Both Kazmir (15th overall) and Francis (9th overall) were first round picks in 2002. Both pitchers made their major league debuts with 7 starts in the 2004 season and have nearly identical service time and similar career numbers. In 72 career starts, Francis is 30-25 with a career ERA of 4.91. Kazmir is 22-20 with a 3.73 ERA in 63 career starts.
Francis will receive a $500,000 signing bonus and is set to make only $500,000 in 2007. If the Rays can sign Kaz to a contract in the same neighborhood, it would not have a large impact on the 2007 payroll. With a new contract in place for the ace of the staff, the Rays will have a better sense of the team’s obligations for the next 4-5 years, and more flexibility in the free agent market.