On August 29th, 2009 the Rays made a decision that shocked the fanbase. The team held a record of 69-57, good for 5th in the American League, but two of the teams with better records were both in the AL East. Heading into play on the 29th, the Rays were a total of 10 games back in the division, but only four games back of the rival Boston Red Sox for the wildcard lead.
Just a month prior, the Rays had been very active in talks leading up to the trade deadline with the hopes of acquiring some big name talent in the form of Victor Martinez or Cliff Lee. They were also not shying away from potentially dealing one of the faces of the franchise (Scott Kazmir, Carlos Pena, or Carl Crawford). Nothing would come to fruition however, as their biggest acquisition came just a week later in the form of Greg Zaun on August 7th.
From that point on, the Rays would fight and claw their ways back into the race for the postseason, and seemed they had finally gotten within striking distance. Then suddenly, as the Rays were getting set to take on the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, reports started to break that beloved rotation mainstay Scott Kazmir had been traded.
It was a stunning development.
Even though Kazmir was going through his worst year as a professional, he was still the best pitcher the franchise had ever seen. During the month of August, Kazmir had seemed to turn a corner as he was putting up his best performances of the year, which made it come as even more of a shock when the reports were breaking.
It's fair to say that Rays fans were distressed and enraged at the front office. Although some could understand the situation of the Rays wanting to get something of value for their highly paid ace seemingly past the prime of his career, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
Fans had followed the team as they made their dramatic attempt for the playoffs, only to have the best pitcher in team history traded away, and seemingly for prospects who would not help the team for a few years. Cries of salary dump rang through the fanbase.
It's worth remembering that, just as the anger and dread spread, a moment of joy and relief was mixed in this moment in Comerica Park, as reports came through that the supposed deal had hit a snag and fallen through. Maybe Kazmir would stay put with Tampa Bay. Unfortunately, just as fans were celebrating their relief, the deal was confirmed. It was a heart wrenching day.
The Rays would deal Scott Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Alex Torres, Matthew Sweeney, and a player to be named later.
Alex Torres and Matthew Sweeney were a couple of prospects in the Angles system who had not yet cracked the top 10, but it seemed Torres would reach it with his breakout year. Rays fans were disappointed with the return though, but the player to be named would soften the blow.
For the PTBNL, the Rays were given a choice: Bobby Wilson or Sean Rodriguez. The chose the utility infielder with bloodlines over the presumable back up catcher. In a funny turn, Bobby Wilson would join the Rays as a free agent for the 2015 season, in the same off-season Sean Rodriguez would be traded away as another fan favorite.
Meanwhile, the Rays would completely fall apart during September of that year.
Carlos Pena, who was leading the league in homers, fractured his thumb after being hit by a pitch that cost him the rest of the season. The Rays would embark on an 11 game losing streak, effectively eliminating any hope of playoff contention. They'd finish the season with a record of 84-78, 11 games back in the wild card.
The following two seasons however, Scott Kazmir's career disintegrated. He would be released by the Angles in 2011, while Sean Rodriguez had become a very solid versatile, platoon bat for the Rays, rising above his PTBNL status.
Alex Torres would struggle with his command, causing the team to demote him to the low minors to try and retool his game. It would be successful, because Torres would become a great weapon out of the pen in 2013. He'd be traded to San Diego that offseason in a deal that netted Brad Boxburger and Logan Forsythe. Then after a year there, he'd be again shipped to New York.
After displaying a solid bat in the early stages of his career, Matthew Sweeney struggled after being traded to Tampa Bay. He would never make it above Double-A Montgomery and was released following the 2012 season.
Kaz enjoyed a miraculous turnaround in his career, after spending the 2012 season out of the majors, playing for the Sugar Land Skeeters, and then finding a great comeback season with the Indians. That offseason, he signed with Oakland, where's he's been a solid starter the past couple of years.
Sean Rodriguez was dealt to Pittsburgh this past off-season, where he is currently serving a bench role for the Pirates. Torres is having a decent year out of the pen of the Mets.
The repercussions of the Kazmir trade showed a timely decision by the front office, dealing a great player for value just before his career took a tumble. Thankfully he rose again, and is enjoying a great career once more, and Tampa Bay is able to benefit from the many transactions that followed.
The Draysbay Archive of the Deal
Initial Report, Deal Falls Through
Confirming the Deal Had Been Done