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Saturday, August 29, 2009
Rays send message with trade

Golly, I sure didn't see this one coming: 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.