Sky Kalkman raised this topic a while back, and given the circumstances, it seems like a decent topic of discussion, if not an overly pleasant one. Within the next few weeks teams are going to have to decide whether they want to add an extra piece or two for the second half or if they want to sell some parts. Given the Cleveland Indians early struggle, you could see Cliff Lee's name out there. Also expect the Seattle Mariners to shop Erik Bedard and Jarrod Washburn if they continue sliding. Otherwise, the pitching market is going to be pretty drab for teams like the Jays, Brewers, Phillies, and just about every other N.L. contender not named the Cubs or Braves.
Which is why it makes perfect sense to at least call around about Scott Kazmir.
The Brewers seem like the best fit for a number of reasons.
1. They’ve shown a propensity to make a deal for a starting pitcher.
2. They match up with the Rays system needs well.
3. They aren’t afraid to use 2 to get 1.
Kazmir makes a boat load of sense for them from a financial standpoint as well. They took on 9 million with CC Sabathia last season and he was in the final year of his deal. Kazmir costs 6 million. Remember that neither of those salaries would be paid in full by the Brewers, instead only the amount of money owed from that point on, so while we’re still talking less than their salaries, they would still be paying less for Kazmir than Sabathia. Kazmir is due 20 million over the next two seasons and then has a 13.5 million club option, the Brewers have a boatload of money coming off the books by the time that option kicks in:
Mike Cameron 10 mil (expires after 2009)
Jeff Suppan 12.5 mil (expires after 2010)
Prince Fielder 10.5 mil (expires after 2011)
Trevor Hoffman 6 mil (expires after 2009)
And so on.
Right now the Brewers rotation features Yovani Gallardo, David bush, Jeff Suppan, Braden Looper, and Manny Parra. Yet somehow they’re only two back of the St. Louis Cardinals – another team that could be interested in Kazmir if he were to become available. How bad do the Brewers need an upgrade? Consider that most people around here cannot stand Kazmir because his FIP is 5.05 and last year it was 4.37. Last year, Suppan’s FIP was 5.51, this year it’s 6.15. Yeah, even if Kazmir keeps up his current level of performance he’s an entire run better per nine than Suppan. For a team that figures to contend all season, those runs add up.
So why should the Rays even consider this. Are they throwing in the playoff towel if they trade Kazmir in the middle of June? Not at all. Losing Kazmir would hurt, definitely, but the Rays could slide David Price or Mitch Talbot into the excess rotation spot. Sure, the negative PR hit might hurt attendance, but then again, Kazmir complaining about attendance might hurt attendance. The money due to Kazmir becomes free, allowing for extension talks, trade acquisitions of the Rays own, or even free agent signings. Wouldn’t you like to free up nearly 35 million with the upcoming arbitration class? Yeah, so would I.
Next, the Rays have a lack of hitting depth outside of Desmond Jennings, Matt Joyce, and Reid Brignac. There’s John Jaso, who may or may not stick at catcher, Tim Beckham – too far away to be considered legitimate depth at this point – and Reid Fronk. Otherwise, not so much. According to Baseball America, 9 of the Brewers’ top 10 prospects are of the hitting variety:
Alcides Escobar SS
Mat Gamel 3B/1B
Brett Lawrie C/INF
Angel Salome C
Lorenzo Cain OF
Cutter Dykstra OF
Taylor Green 3B
Cole Gillespie OF
Jonathan Lucroy C
Last year, the Brewers dealt their top overall prospect for CC Sabathia, but Kazmir isn’t Sabathia level anymore, so let’s lower our expectations a bit. If the Rays simply want a pure slugger in return, Gamel’s the guy. He hits for power, he walks, yeah he strikes out a bit too. As for a position, he won’t play third. Maybe first, maybe a corner outfield spot, and probably a little DH. Basically, Gamel is a slightly better hitting Aubrey Huff.
Aim high and ask for Gamel and Salome, if they say no, decide which you like more and pick and choose another one. Obviously I don’t know what the Brewers would say yes to, or what the Rays would agree to, but there’s a pretty big chance to land a 4-win player and another young catcher while freeing budget space and potentially avoiding a Kazmir meltdown. Further, while I’m focusing on the Brewers, the Rays could conceivably do this same thing with the Cardinals, who have a similar player in Brett Wallace, or a number of other teams.
The point is, this might be the best time to trade Kazmir. His name value is still there and he’s healthy. I guess it just depends on how sure the Rays are about projecting his performance heading forward. The left-handed starter market is about to heat up, it’ll be interesting to see if the Rays decide to stoke the flames.