Rays send message with trade

August, 29, 2009
8/29/09
2:04
AM ET
Golly, I sure didn't see this one coming:
    The Los Angeles Angels, looking to bolster their rotation for the last five weeks of the season and in October, acquired leftt-hander Scott Kazmir of the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.

    "This is a surprise. I had heard rumors before, but it's hard to believe that it is now official," Kazmir said after Tampa Bay's 6-2 loss to Detroit. "It's a disappointment because of all the relationships I've built in the organization and the city, but you can't control the business side of the game."

    The Angels and Rays had extensive conversations before the trade deadline about Kazmir, who is 8-7 with a 5.92 ERA.

    Tampa Bay receives two minor leaguers -- left-hander Alex Torres and infielder Matt Sweeney -- and a player to be named later in the deal.

    --snip--

    Kazmir is the club's career leader in wins, strikeouts, starts and innings pitched.

    "It's very easy to say that this trade will hurt our chances, given how Scott has pitched his last few starts," Maddon said. "But we've got guys in the minors that we really like and that we think can help us."

    The left-handed Torres, 21, is 13-4 with a 2.75 ERA in the minors this season, while reaching Double-A. Sweeney, a 21-year-old third baseman, is hitting .296 in Class A, with nine homers, 44 RBIs, 26 walks and 37 strikeouts.

It's not really fair to describe this deal as a salary dump, because the Rays are getting far more than just $21 million of financial relief. They've also picked up at least two solid prospects, and it's not all that unlikely that one of those prospects will wind up helping the Rays as soon as next season.

But of course the deal was largely about the money. And the standings. It's been apparent for some time now that for the Rays to ace out the Red Sox and the Rangers for the wild card, a number of things would have to go right for them (and perhaps wrong for their competition). Trading Kazmir doesn't mean they're giving up on that possibility; it just means their chances of reaching the playoffs moves from around 10 percent with Kazmir in the rotation to perhaps eight percent with Wade Davis replacing him.

Giving up two percent in exchange for three talented young players ... well, on paper that's a move you'd be thrilled to make, every day of the week.

The Rays don't play their games on paper, though, and I'm surprised they would make this deal. Yes, maybe the performance hit they're taking is negligible. But try explaining that to the fans, particularly when the guy you're dealing is arguably the franchise's all-time pitcher. Would Kazmir really have been worth less on the trade market this winter, or next spring, or next July?

Well, that all depends on how he finishes this season. There's often not a great deal of demand for a pitcher with a 5.92 ERA. But if Kazmir pitches well for the Angels in September and October, we might reasonably wonder if the Rays should have waited until their fate this season was sealed.

Meanwhile, the Angels have locked up a pretty good pitcher for a pretty good price for the next two months and two seasons. But we can't begin to evaluate this trade until we see what the pitcher does, and what those three prospects do. Right now I'd call it a square deal, good for both sides. But it probably won't end up that way.

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