What if Scott Kazmir actually opts out?

It’s a foregone conclusion Scott Kazmir, after a disappointing 2016 season that ended with in injury, will not opt out of the final two years of his contract, giving up 32 million guaranteed dollars.

Is it, though? There’s an argument to be made on both sides of the issue, but there are some surprisingly logical reasons for him to opt out.

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The free agent starting pitcher market is abysmal. If Kazmir were to opt out, he’d easily be a top-10 starter on the market, and probably a higher than that. Let’s take a quick look at the guys who might be ahead of him:

And some who aren’t as easy to determine:

And then some guys who have options that aren’t a lock to be exercised:

Some of these pitchers are definitely more attractive to clubs than Kazmir, but some aren’t considerably better gambles than he might be. Would you rather have Volquez instead of Kazmir for 2017 and beyond?

Kazmir’s velocity held throughout most of the season, but it dipped in September due to the thoracic spine inflammation. That doesn’t sound great, but it doesn’t mean he’s headed for any major procedure, either, so Kazmir should be good to go in 2017.

Joel Sherman of the New York Post raised the question of whether Kazmir would opt out in a column from Oct. 24.

“Kazmir can opt out of the two years at $32 million left within three days of the end of the World Series. He would be hard pressed to replicate that even in free agency, since he pitched poorly after being obtained down the stretch with Houston last year, had a 4.56 ERA this year and missed a month with a neck ailment. If he turned it down, the Dodgers theoretically could make the $17.2 million qualifying offer. Kazmir could reject that, in which case L.A. would get draft-pick compensation. If Kazmir accepted, he might be easier to deal at one year, $17.2 million than two at $32 million. It is believed both Kazmir and the team would prefer a divorce.

That last part is key. If both teams want a split, then I wouldn’t expect to see Kazmir in a Dodger uniform in 2017. As Sherman wrote, Kazmir can opt out (easiest), accept a qualifying offer the Dodgers might make (tougher) or opt in and have the Dodgers try to trade his remaining $32 million.

The best thing for the Dodgers would be if Kazmir opted out and the sides were done with each other, but knowing this front office, they would extend Kazmir a qualifying offer in hopes of getting a draft pick. However, maybe Kazmir says to Andrew Friedman, “I’ll opt out if you don’t give me the qualifying offer.” In that case, it’d still be the best course of action for the Dodgers to agree to his terms. Even if there is no stipulation and Kazmir ends up accepting the qualifying offer, it would be much easier to trade Kazmir at one year and $17.2 million than it would at two years and $32 million (with half of it deferred after the original contract expires).

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In the end, it comes down to whether Kazmir wants to gamble on himself.

While he’d be hard pressed to best his $16 million/year salary on the open market, if he signs with a team in a state that doesn’t have income tax (or has a lower income tax than California), it might actually net him more money in the end. He also couldn’t ask for a better situation in the free agency than the 2017 class of starting pitchers. Furthermore, the Dodgers have a lot of starting pitching options for 2017, and at this rate, Kazmir might begin 2017 out of the Dodger bullpen. If that’s the case, an opt out seems a lot more likely just because he probably wants to remain a starter. All that said, it’s still hard to see him passing up $32 million guaranteed dollars, especially given his performance in 2016 and concern over injuries.

Kazmir has until tomorrow to decide whether to opt-out or not, and the Dodgers have until Monday at 2 p.m. to extend a qualifying offer (if he exercises the opt out).

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.