Cost to keep Kazmir may grow prohibitive

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA, Times Staff Writer
Published December 30, 2007

Even though he is entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, there's already talk that Scott Kazmir's days as a Ray are numbered.

Kazmir is coming off his best season, reaching career highs in wins (13), innings pitched (2062/3) and strikeouts (an AL-high 239). Considering the way the Rays monitored his workload, limiting his pitch counts and innings for most of the second half, it's clear they consider Kazmir a big part of their future.

In an age in which finding quality starting pitching is hard and keeping it more difficult, the Rays - who don't comment on contract negotiations - might be wise to go to the bargaining table and work out a long-term deal with Kazmir.

Here's the glitch. The Rays explored the possibility last year, but nothing developed. And Kazmir, who couldn't be reached for comment, doesn't appear to be in a hurry to sign a long-term deal of the likes of Carl Crawford's or Rocco Baldelli's.

The Tigers paid $29-million over three years for left-hander Dontrelle Willis, who has had declining wins and ERAs the past two seasons. But that came only after the Marlins were forced to trade Willis or lose him in free agency.

Would Kazmir be worth more in two years, provided he maintains his progression and stays healthy? If the Rays keep putting better players around him, absolutely. You'd be talking about a 26-year-old left-hander with about 60 wins and 1,000 strikeouts.

BISCUITS HELP FORMER MANAGER: The Montgomery Biscuits raised $12,756 for the Alexander Montoyo Fund, going to help the infant son of Triple-A Durham manager and former Montgomery skipper Charlie Montoyo, who was born with a congenital heart defect.

More than 60 individuals, including minor-league and major-league players, donated to the fund for a total of $7,756. Biscuits owners Tom Dickson and Sherrie Myers matched the first $5,000 raised.

Alexander Montoyo has had two open-heart surgeries and remains in a Los Angeles hospital receiving treatment.

MISCELLANY: A recent SI.com article rated the Rays starting rotation as tied with the Blue Jays for fourth best in the AL, behind the Angels, Red Sox and Indians. ... Using six parameters to grade the probability of fielding a ball, the Web site BaseballMusings.com took a look at every batted ball - not counting home runs - and rated the Rays the worst fielding team in baseball in 2007. The Yankees and Red Sox were first and second, respectively.