Friday, August 28, 2009
Updated: August 29, 1:33 PM ET
Angels deal for left-hander Kazmir
By Buster Olney
ESPN The Magazine
The Los Angeles Angels, looking to bolster their rotation for the last five weeks of the season and in October, acquired left-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.
"We're very excited about the player that we can't name yet, but also about the other two," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The lefty has a great arm, and Sweeney is one of the best hitters in the minors."
Looking to lock up their third straight division title, the Angels began the night four games ahead of second-place Texas. Tampa Bay was 3½ out in the wild-card race.
"We're not going to make moves just to make moves. We search for opportunities that make sense for us, not only in the short term but in the long term," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said during Friday night's game against Oakland. "We had followed him for the last couple of weeks. Most recently, we had a scout in Toronto who saw Scott pitch, and he obviously threw the ball very well. So we just felt it made sense for us to make the move right now."
Because he was dealt before Aug. 31, Kazmir is eligible for postseason play with Los Angeles.
"I'm going to a quality organization that is in the race every year," said Kazmir, who started Games 1 and 5 of last year's World Series against Philadelphia. "That's something to look forward to, but I don't think it will hit me until I fly out there tomorrow."
The Rays definitely get salary relief in the deal. Tampa Bay is barreling toward a series of tough financial decisions because of its payroll restrictions, and the 25-year-old Kazmir is in the first year of a three-year, $28.5 million deal.
Kazmir, who cleared waivers earlier this month, is making $6 million this year, and will make salaries of $8 million in 2010 and $12 million in 2011.
"It's important because we'll have stability, knowing that we'll have Scott in the fold for this year and two more, plus the option year," Reagins said. "Scott's 25 and still in the prime of his career, so we think he's going to improve."
Tampa Bay may try to replace Kazmir in the rotation with one of its young prospects, such as Wade Davis, who is 10-7 with a 3.26 ERA in Triple-A.
The Angels have dealt with a series of injuries and inconsistency with their rotation this season, as well as the death of Nick Adenhart. The Angels rank 24th in starters' ERA in the majors, at 4.96, yet have a four-game lead in the AL West, largely because they have had an overpowering offense that leads the majors in runs.
Staff ace John Lackey can become a free agent after this season.
"Scott's situation is exclusive of anything we're doing in the future," Reagins said. "The way the pitching market is out there now and the pitchers that are available in the next few years, this made a lot of sense for us -- to be able to get a quality pitcher in the fold right now."
Just before Reagins spoke with reporters, Angels rookie Trevor Bell was lifted from the game after giving up five runs and seven hits over 2 2/3 innings.
Kazmir was selected in the first round of the 2002 draft by the New York Mets, then traded to Tampa Bay in 2004 while he was still in the minors for Victor Zambrano.
Kazmir led the AL with 239 strikeouts in 2007 but has been slowed by injuries during his career.
Kazmir is 4-1 with a 4.38 ERA over his last six starts. His previous outing was at Toronto on Wednesday, when he struck out 10 while allowing a run and four hits over six innings in a no-decision.
"I don't know what to say, because he's been pitching well," Rays teammate Carl Crawford said. "It surprises me to see Kaz go, because of everything he's meant to the organization."
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 Rays acquired more skilled minor leaguers from the Angels. 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.
"There were players that obviously were moved in this deal that they saw value in and they liked -- and we liked," Reagins said. "We think that we gave up two talented players, and a third to come. So this was not a basic salary dump."
Buster Olney is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.