Saturday, August 29, 2009

My take on the Kazmir trade

As discussed earlier on this blog, I think it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Scott Kazmir will finish out his career elsewhere. The timing of the trade is a bit peculiar. Aside from a complete dismantling of the team, Rays fans can now say that they've run the gamut of emotions that one can experience when you throw your support behind a small market club with mediocre revenue streams. If you find yourself angry with the system, it could be worse. If it wasn't for revenue sharing the Montgomery Biscuits roster would be suiting up to play the Tigers tonight. There's imbalance in the league, but it could be much worse.

From a philosophical standpoint, this makes sense (brace yourself for lots of Marlins comparisons). The GMs with the most street cred subscribe to the theory that when dealing with limited resources it is best not to hand out lucrative long term deals to pitchers. The logic being that it is more likely that a hard throwing pitcher will break down and you won't get the value per dollar that you might get had you given that contract to a position player. The Marlins implemented this philosophy by cutting bait with the pitching staff from their 2003 World Series at about the same time the Rays traded Kazmir, who is 25 years old. Here is the Marlins 2003 rotation and the age each pitcher was when they were moved by the Marlins (note: AJ Burnett was not on the Marlins post season roster that year due to injury, but he did pitch for the team that year)

Josh Beckett - 25

AJ Burnett - 28

Dontrelle Willis - 26

Brad Penny - 26

Carl Pavano - 28

Beckett and Kazmir are similar in that their big league clock started earlier than most, hence they were dealt at 25, whereas the others on the list you see were a bit older because they didn't make it to the show when they were 20. The Rays have caught a lot of flack in the past for holding players back in the minors (Longoria last year at the beginning of the year, Delmon Young, Elijah Dukes, to name a few). This illustrates why the Rays have to do stuff like this.

Now Larry Beinfest, Marlins President of Baseball Operations (not the GM, Michael Hill is the GM, but Larry is incorrectly labeled as such by a lot of people), is commonly credited for being the best at dealing with limited resources. Yes, the Marlins won the series in 2003, but they haven't been back to the playoffs since. They have been competitive deep into the second half of the season many times since though. But the moves to dismantle the World Series team haven't yielded a playoff team just yet, and this is the National League we are talking about. If Andrew Friedman and Gerry Hunsicker are going to maneuver the Rays in a similar fashion, they are going to have to be much better at it than Beinfest, because we all know that the American League is a little less forgiving than the National League. No disrespect to Larry Beinfest, but I think people in south Florida need to open their eyes a bit with him. He's gotten a free pass for life. Anything they do, the reaction is "Well, if Larry says it's OK than it must be fine". Really? I'll spare you the laundry list, but this guy isn't perfect. He's getting a lot of mileage out of Hanley Ramirez (terrific at the plate, extremely pedestrian in the field). It's like people forget that he had to trade a Cy Young caliber pitcher to get this guy. Congratulations pal. Yes the Marlins front office is good, but they aren't splitting the atom. I personally think that their trade with the Tigers is (or at least should) kill some of their good will. Miguel Cabrera is a monster, and all they got in return was Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. Jury is still out, but I'm pessimistic on both.

Scott Kazmir is a small man who's money maker was a big fastball. That is a risky investment for a MLB team located in St Petersburg, FL, even if he does have his best years directly in front of him.

Having said all that, if the Rays missed the playoffs last season, I don't think this trade happens this year. I don't care if anyone disagrees, the bar was moved last year. I don't like it, but it was. If the Rays went 81-81 last season and were well out of the playoff chase by mid August, we would be evaluating the status quo much differently today. 4.5 games back with a month of baseball to go is far from out of it (although from looking at this team play, they don't appear to be playoff material). The backlash against the front office would be brutal if this trade happens in the franchise's first playoff chase ever. To make matters worse, we sat through a brutal stretch of starts from Kazmir with the hopes that he would break out of his funk, which he did! Kazmir has been great as of late, and I had him pegged as someone who would play a key role in the team's chances to make the postseason. The fantasy equivalent is when you take a guy in the first few rounds of your draft, only to see him shit the bed for half a season. You finally sell the guy off and he turns into a Cy Young candidate.

The depth at starting pitching in our organization is what made this possible. Wade Davis appears to be on his way to the rotation. While it seems to be a tall order to ask a rookie to replace a veteran, we are asking him to replace a 25 year old veteran, not CC Sabathia or Josh Beckett. Perhaps the drop-off won't be as great as you might think. Judging from Kazmir's recent outing though, I'm not optimistic on this front.

The Rays can spin this all they want, but I think this move signals the end of our season. Brace yourself for all the bitter bears who will come out of the wood works, and bitch and moan about cutting payroll. Our friends in Hillsborough County might even spin a yarn about how much more money the team would make there, and try to trick people into believing things would be different if the Rays played in their shithole.

So what did we get in return?:

  • 21 year old (???) Venezuelan pitcher Alex Torres

  • 21 year old third baseman Matt Sweeney

  • Player to be named later

I'm normally leery of the player to be named later, but in the case of a waiver trade, if a player traded is on the 40 man roster that player would have to clear waivers in order to be named. They can call it "player to be named later" and finish the trade in the off-season and circumvent the waiver process. I believe this player has been agreed upon and Joe Maddon calls this player "a very interesting player that I'm very excited about". The Times considers this player "closer to the majors" than the others. A quick glance at the Angels 40 man roster, the players on it whom aren't on the active roster are

  1. Robert Mosebach - P

  2. Sean O'Sullivan - P

  3. Anthony Ortega - P

  4. Fernando Rodriguez - P

  5. Rich Thompson - P

  6. Ryan Budde - C

  7. Bobby Wilson - C

  8. Matthew Brown - IF

  9. Sean Rodriguez - IF

  10. Freddy Sandoval - IF

  11. Mark Trumbo - IF

  12. Brandon Wood - IF

  13. Terry Evans - OF

  14. Reggie Willits - OF

I don't know anything about any of these guys (or the players who have been named). I will stop short of giving Friedman and Hunsicker the Larry Beinfest treatment, and hold back on blind praise. But I will say that given the timing of this trade I suspect that the Angels were not a willing trade partner after the season. The players made available to the Rays were, in the eyes of the Rays, worth taking the risk of blowing our playoff chances because the Angels want Kazmir for the stretch run. A month ago I think we all thought there was a chance that the rest of the league had soured on Kazmir and that his trade value wasn't what it used to be. Well he's gone now, so keep your fingers crossed that this works out.

In the meantime, we are blowing it in Detroit. If we don't win today's game there is a strong possibility of a sweep which would basically bury us.

If any of you guys have info on these prospects please share, otherwise I will post some links next week if I find any about them.

UPDATE: Last thought. With one month to go, we're basically giving up 5 appearances from Kazmir to save $24 million. If the trade market was light on him before the non-waiver trade deadline, and the Angels suddenly came out of the wood work with a great deal, it's hard to question this. It should also be noted that Kazmir had to pass through every team except the Yankees to get to LA in the waiver process. Whatever that means. Lots of players get put on waivers, and pulled back when claims are put in on them, so there probably isn't too much to be taken from that since the waiver process is a mere formality this time of year.

Also, there is a strong liklihood that if you are the type to look around the internet for opinions on this trade that you will come across some that consider Kazmir past his prime. I don't subscribe to this theory. If anything he is entering his prime, which if you are an organization such as the Rays, is when you would get maximum value. By no means do I think we've pillaged the Mets and Angels by taking a young talent for our own personal gain and disposed of him just as he hit his decline. On the contrary, I think he's got some quality years...we just can't afford them.


  1. Found Torres on this list

  2. I know Brandon Wood and Sean O'Sullivan from that list. Wood was one of the top prospects in baseball for years, but I haven't heard much on him of late. Sean O'Sullivan is one of the elite pitchers in their system. As for the guys we got, I know nothing of the third basemen, but as you pointed out Alex Torres has been racking up appearances on the Hot Sheet, and is seemingly putting together a Hellickson-type season only he started at High A. For this deal to really work, we have to get Brandon Wood, O'Sullivan, or Ryan Budde, a name I am somewhat familiar with, and who plays a position of need.

  3. I gotta think the "player to be named" is a catching prospect. That would make a lot of sense.