The Tampa Bay Rays had always been a team that dealt their young, rising in cost talent for new blood, but the trade of Scott Kazmir was something different.
Kazmir had come to the Rays five years earlier in an oft-discussed and trade with the New York Mets.
Heading into the 2004 trade deadline, the out-of-contention Tampa Bay Devil Rays were receiving plenty of interest in right-handed pitcher Victor Zambrano, who despite some massive control issues, had developed into a decent starting pitcher in the tough American League East.
Among those interested teams: the New York Mets.
A deal was struck that would significantly alter the futures of both franchises.
On July 30th, 2004 the Tampa Bay Devil Rays traded Victor Zambrano and a minor league pitcher to the New York Mets for a couple of pitching prospects, one of whom was 20 year old Scott Kazmir.
Kazmir was the Mets first round selection in the 2002 draft and had been surging through their system and up the prospect rankings. He had already reached Double-A and was listed as the 12th best prospect overall by Baseball America following the 2003 season.
Tampa Bay quickly wanted to see what they had in their new prospect and fast tracked him to the majors as he made his debut less than one month after being acquired, skipping over the Triple-A level.
On August 23rd, 2004, 20 year old Scott Kazmir took the mound in Seattle against the Mariners and proceeded to work five scoreless innings, striking out four, walking three, and surrendering four hits.
Kazmir wouldn’t see a minor league mound again until the 2008 season.
“Kaz” quickly became the Devil Rays’ ace, the one guy in that rotation whom opposing teams hoped not to see whenever the green vests came to town. He carved through opposing lineups, and despite struggling with command at times, he was the Devil Rays pitcher who could be seen as a true top of the rotation talent.
As the years came and went, the Devil Rays found several solid arms to join him in the rotation. James Shields developed in a frontline starter, Matt Garza was acquired from the Twins, and the back end of the rotation filled out nicely with a couple of out of nowhere arms.
The Rays surged to the postseason for the first time in franchise history during a miraculous 2008 season. Although this was not Kazmir’s best season — he lost time to injury — he still earned an All Star selection, struck out more than one batter per inning and pitched to a 3.49 ERA.
And the Rays showed their confidence in him, signing him to a three year contract extension early on in the season.
Kazmir kept the Rays in the contest with a six inning - three run performance, but he was outdueled by Cole Hamels. The Rays would lose the game and went on to lose the series in five games.
In 2009, however, Kazmir struggled. His mechanics were all out of whack. His strikeouts were way down, opponents were hitting him harder than ever. Still, just 25 years old, Kazmir was the veteran on a young Rays staff and he was expensive. The time had come, for the Rays and Kazmir to part ways.
After making it through the trade deadline, the Rays would find a suitor for Kazmir on the waiver wire.
On August 29th, 2009, the Tampa Bay Rays traded Scott Kazmir to the Los Angeles Angels for a couple of prospects (Alex Torres and Matthew Sweeney) and a player to be named later (Sean Rodriguez).
Both Torres and Rodgriguez went on to contribute to the Rays as major leaguers. For those of you who like following trade trees, Torres was flipped, along with Jesse Hahn, after one strong season, to the Padres for Logan Forsythe, Brad Boxberger and Matt Andriese (along with two others). Rodriguez’s return was merely cash and a PTBNL who never progressed with the Rays.
Kazmir flopped for the Angels as his mechanical and injury woes continued.
The 2010 season was disastrous for Kazmir as was among the worst pitchers in all of baseball. 2011 didn’t go much better for him, as he only made one appearance in the majors, and would be ultimately released by the Angels in June, with them eating the remaining $14.5M left on his contract.
Now, at 28 years old, it appeared Kazmir’s time in the majors was over as he was unable to find a job in affiliated baseball. He joined the Independent Leagues with the hopes of resurrecting his career.
Then, he did.
In 2013, the Cleveland Indians took a flyer on Kazmir and he rewarded them with a solid comeback campaign, producing his best year since 2007.
Kaz was back.
In the off-season, Kazmir’s perseverance and hard work paid off as the Oakland Athletics signed him to a two year, $22M deal. Kazmir rewarded them, by being named an All-Star in 2014 and producing another fantastic season.
Kazmir was solid again in 2015, but his results stated to trend downward and then again in 2016 as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He missed all of the 2017 season with injury, and would be traded to the Atlanta Braves during the off-season, with whom he spent spring training.
Unfortunately, his injury problems came back and he’d be released before Opening Day.
Kazmir recently took part in the Rays 2008 team celebration, where he stated that he took the year off to deal with family matters but is interested in pitching again.