ST. PETERSBURG, FL---The Tampa Bay Rays have traded left-handed pitcher Scott Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in exchange for left-handed pitcher Alex Torres, third baseman Matt Sweeney and a player to be named later.
Kazmir, 25, is 8-7 with a 5.92 ERA (111-IP, 73-ER) in 2009, his sixth season (fifth full season) in the majors. He leaves Tampa Bay as the franchise's all-time leader in wins (55), innings pitched (834), strikeouts (874), starts (144) and quality starts (71). Kazmir is the only pitcher to be named to two All-Star Games as a Ray. He was acquired from the New York Mets on July 30, 2004, along with right-handed pitcher Jose Diaz in exchange for right-handed pitchers Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.
Torres, 21, is a combined 13-4 with a 2.75 ERA (147.1-IP, 45-ER) in 26 appearances (24 starts) between Rancho Cucamonga and Arkansas (AA) this season. He went 10-3 with a 2.74 ERA (121.1-IP, 37-ER) for Rancho Cucamonga, earning California League All-Star honors and a July 31 promotion to Arkansas, where he went 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA (26-IP, 8-ER). Overall he has 149 strikeouts in 147.1 innings, while limiting opponents to only four home runs and 116 hits, good for a .222 opponents' average. The Valencia, Venezuela native will report to Montgomery (AA).
Sweeney, 21, hit .299 (63-for-211) this season for Rancho Cucamonga (A) with nine homers, 44 RBI, a .379 on-base pct. and .517 slugging pct. while playing third base and designated hitter. The left-handed hitter was sidelined the entire 2008 season while recovering from ankle surgery, and this year spent more than two months on the disabled list with a right hip injury. The two-time minor league All-Star was selected in the eighth round of the 2006 June Draft out of Rockville, Md. He will report to Charlotte (A).
Welcome Matthew, Alex, and poor nameless soul.
Okay, let's go through everything.
Matthew Sweeney missed all of 2008 with a broken ankle. He's a big, strong guy with some injury issues. Right now he plays third base and if you know anything about the Rays, you know that won't be the case whenever he reaches the majors. If he stays healthy, pencil him in as your potential 2011 first baseman or designated hitter. He's in High-A ball and figures to be major league ready by the time Carlos Pena leaves at the end of next season.
Alexander Torres is a lefty with swing-and-miss and groundball generating abilities. As you can guess, his fastball has good sink to it despite his short stature. He has control issues and he's in Double-A, but he's also striking out a lot more batters than most left-handed starters are capable of. Maybe he's nothing more than a pen arm, maybe he's a back-end starter.
Both are 21-years-old and neither were ranked in the Angels 2009 pre-season top 10 per Baseball America. John Sickels' last ranking of both was of the C+ variety. Purely from the rankings, that's not a great return, but the numbers don't suggest either is a C+ prospect. Both have some issues but I can't look at either's statistical profile and label them as nothing but fodder. There's upside and certainly some downside to be had here, and with the way prospect rankings change on a whim, I'd be shocked if both are C+ players come next year.
Plus there's a player to be named later involved. Probably nothing special, but who knows.
I'll admit to not being shaken by this one bit. It's not that I don't have fond memories of Kazmir, it's just that I came to acceptance with the idea of dealing him a month ago. I hope he pitches well for Anaheim just like I hope well for most former Rays. He added many nights of enjoyment to my baseball life and for that I'm thankful. Also: he gives us the own card to spring on trash-talking Mets fans.
So let's talk about his attributes.
He's injury prone and apparently was not the biggest lover of the fans or Jim Hickey, but that aside, he was a very good pitcher for quite a while and pitched well recently. Something like a 3.6 FIP the past 30 days.
He's also about to get expensive. Some are going to see the Rays moving a huge - by their standards - salaried player and call it a salary dump, a sign of cheapness, or a true showing of their parsimonious attitude. Whatever. The Rays just freed up a good amount of money to reallocate in other parts of the team. If that means re-signing someone or adding a new catcher via trade, then there you go.
The thing people should remember is that pitchers don't age like hitters. There's a pretty good chance Scott Kazmir has hit his peak already. His age is by and large irrelevant. Andrew Friedman has been combing the market for a while. If this is what he considers the best deal, then I can't disagree until other offers emerge.
Obviously you can keep him for another year and hope he avoids the D.L. and pitches better, but there's simply no guarantee either way. Kazmir's weighted FIP since 2006 is 3.88, and if you go from 2007 onwards, it rises to 4.04. Which is solid, but obviously the Rays feel they can get similar production for less money.
Our odds are around 16% right now (Note: written prior to tonight's victory/defeat). That's not good. I've pointed out for the past few weeks that the chances of the Rays making the post-season aren't great and would take some extraordinary play to achieve a berth. Losing Kazmir affects those chances, although probably not too much. Say the Rays replace him with Wade Davis (More on this next week, maybe tomorrow, I don't want to get into it here.) We'd assume a league average FIP around 4.5. ZiPS projects Kazmir at 4.11 the rest of the way. Sure, the Rays lose a few runs over the way, but the difference isn't getting the Rays into the playoffs nor should it be the only thing to keep them out.
Is it the prettiest of deals for the Rays? The easiest slam dunk? No. The prospect rankings don't like the guys we know we got in return, and there's the chance this backfires, but I can see why the Rays made this move. Also I must say, this kills the idea that the Rays care about public perception. Good on them for doing what they feel is best for the organization instead of what is best for the organization in the public spectrum. I don't know if it'll look like the right move in two years, four years, or ever, still they have some guts and have shown the brains in the past.
This isn't the franchise defining moment I imagined it would be and I think that's a good thing.
Oh, and I'm excited to see what this front office does with some more budget room.