Much has been made of Scott Kazmir’s struggles this season as his career continues to fall faster than BJ Upton’s trade value. So we guess it was only a matter of time until somebody tried to argue that the trade that brought Kazmir to the Rays wasn’t that bad. Enter Jeff Pearlman of SI.com

While Duquette was certainly foolish to take on Zambrano, his worries about Kazmir have, by and large, proven true. At the time of the deal, Kazmir boosters were comparing the youngster to another Ron Guidry…Truth is, when the Mets brass watched Kazmir throw, they often saw another Bud Smith, a slight St. Louis left-hander who, as a rookie phenom in 2001, went 6-3 while tossing a no-hitter. Smith was briefly the talk of baseball, but after pitching terribly early in 2002, he was traded to Philadelphia and never heard from again. He was small, he was left-handed — and he broke down.

Yes, Scott Kazmir has had a nice career. But nice is often misleading. Now in his seventh full season, Kazmir has never posted an ERA lower than 3.48, has never won more than 13 games and has only thrown one complete game — in 2006…Now, with his velocity down, his once-potent slider nonexistent and his ERA a major league-worst 6.92, Kazmir has been placed on the disabled list by an organization perplexed and befuddled by a should-be ace…”Looking at video, I can’t even tell if that’s me out there,” Kazmir recently told ESPN. “It’s getting a little out of control”…In other words, the man has broken down. He will likely never be Ron Guidry or, for that matter, the Scott Kazmir of four years ago.

We guess Pearlman’s point is that the trade wasn’t that bad because Kazmir isn’t as good as Ron Guidry.

There are a couple of problems with that line of thought. First is that Kazmir actually compares quite favorably with Guidry…

Of course, Kazmir never went 25-3 with a 1.74 ERA. But if Kaz had pitched for the Yankees in 2006-2007 instead of the Devil Rays, he probably would have won 20 at least once.

And second, who cares if Kazmir is not on a path to a great career? And why does it matter that Kaz is a mess now? Pearlman can’t just ignore that Kazmir was a productive pitcher for several years after the trade.

As Rob Neyer points out, Kazmir gave the Rays $70.5 million worth of production for about $10.5 million in salary. Victor Zambrano gave the Mets about $5 million in production and zero World Series titles.

We don’t care if Kazmir gets arrested tomorrow for running a cock fighting ring and never pitches another game. The Kazmir-Zambrano trade was decidedly one-sided.

 
 

14 Comments

  1. Jordi says:

    Plus the Rays’ value keeps growing as long as Rodriguez keeps producing. And that doesn’t even consider the other players in the trade.

    • Brian H says:

      That is an excellent point jordi. We are still benefiting from that trade, while, the mets stopped benefiting from it some years back.

      That is exactly why this trade was not only a good one, it was monumental. Keeping in mind Kazmir was an all star during the rays most important season.

  2. Joe D. says:

    Let’s look at what that trade has ment for the Rays, we probably had Zambrano when he was most productive, turned him in to Kaz, had Kaz his most productive seasons, then turned him into Rodzilla, Alex Torres, and Sweeny… I mighty be able to argue that Victor Zambrano is one of the top 5 most important people in Rays history…

  3. Carey says:

    No offense, Cork, but I think you’re overreacting to the article. I think the simple fact is that the Mets always had concerns about Kaz and that those concerns are being realized. He even says that it was a bad trade at the time. I think he’s just trying to illustrate that the Mets weren’t completely off in their thinking that Kazmir was probably overrated. At this point in time, it’s the Zambrano side of the trade that makes it bad, not Kazmir’s production for the Rays.

    On that last note. Has anyone else noticed that Kaz was only at his best when the pressure was ZERO. 2007 is a perfect example. His best season, and no pressure at all since the team sucked. Just go out, do your best, strike some guys out and if the pen loses it, no problem. You did all you could do. If you look at the numbers, Kaz slide begins right at the point when the pressure starts to ramp up, just prior to the 2008 AS game. At that point, we knew it wasn’t a fluke and we knew this team was going to make a run at a title and/or playoff berth. And, IMO, for the first time in his career, Kaz was being counted on to win games. Aside from a good start here or there, they guy was never the same. Now, his head is so screwed that I seriously doubt he’ll ever make a significant contribution at the MLB level again.

    The physical breakdowns may be real, but the real breakdown with Kaz, IMO, is between the ears.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      It’s not a big stretch to predict a pitcher will get hurt at some point in the future. For the Mets to trade Kaz when they did suggests they thought he would never be productive and that’s just not true.

      Take Kazmir’s two best seasons (’06-’07). In ’06, the Mets lost the NLCS 4-3. In ’07, they missed the playoffs by 1 game. Any chance Kazmir would have made a difference those seasons? The trade might have cost the Mets 1 or 2 trips to the World Series.

      And what if the Mets win one of those World Series and then Kazmir broke down? Would people have blamed the Mets for not trading Kazmir earlier?

      • Carey says:

        Maybe. It’s a good point.

        But I reiterate my point about his mental toughness and wonder if he wouldn’t have collapsed sooner since he would have had to pitch in pressure situations.

        Kazmir is the Sir Robin of pitchers

        “When danger reared it’s ugly head, he kindly turned his tail and fled. . . . Brave, brave, brave, brave Sir Robin.”

        • zenny says:

          You’re being horribly unfair to Scotty, imo. He’s not scared; he tries too hard, and he thinks way too much out on the mound.

          He doesn’t need to visit the Wizard of Oz to ask for courage; he needs to visit a zen master and develop inner peace. I hope he gets it together, tho not at the Ray’s expense, of course.

          • Carey says:

            I don’t disagree with a thing you are saying. But this is how he handles pressure. I think it’s pretty clear that his decline coincided – almost directly – with the added pressure of pitching for a contending team in meaningful games every week.

  4. Beth says:

    I suppose there’s a larger debate here about just how you evaluate a trade. On the one hand, it can be misleading to just look at the productivity of the respective players the following year. On the other hand, there’s got to be some statute of limitations — if the guy you trade for gets hit by a bus 5 years down the road, was it a bad trade?

    And I think Joe D’s point is excellent — if the Rays FO can manage to have players with them when they are peak performers and then turn them into prospects through later trades, then they are really doing their jobs.

  5. Gus says:

    As good as the first Kazmir trade was (by Chuck LaMar, no?), the second Kazmir trade may turn out better (although I and most Rays fans didn’t like it at the time because it was management giving up on the 2009 season). The Rays got good players, but most importantly got huge salary relief.

    I feel bad for Kazmir — by all accounts he was and is a good kid who just seems to have lost it and never could recover from what seemed to be not that serious of an injury. The pitching version of BJ Upton in many respects. Like BJ, Kazmir’s toubles may be as much between the ears as it is pain in the shoulder/elbow.

    • I will still argue until I’m blue in the face that the Rays gave up on the 2009 season by trading Kaz. Do I think they regret it? No. But, do I think the corresponding losing streak had something to with how the players felt about the trade? Yes.

      In hindsight, it was very forward thinking of the Rays to make that move. However, to suggest that it wasn’t giving up on last year for a better shot this year is boloney. The Kaz trade was all about trading for the future.

  6. Alex says:

    The SI article is automatically invalidated because the guy can’t do simple freaking research. Kazmir had a 3.24 era in 2006. According to the SI guy 3.24 > 3.48. The Kazmir trade was a steal through and through. Not only did we get a lot of good years from Kaz we also were able to flip him for more prospects, one of which has been very useful this year.

  7. Rob says:

    OK, I’ll play devil’s advocate to a small degree…

    1st to Alex, the 3,24 ERA was during a 144 inning season, thus he didn’t pitch enough innings to “qualify” for a season leader. That was weak, but might be an rationalization.

    2nd, the point the SI writer was probably trying to make was that Kazmir has not had a giant career and yet people act as if the trade was like trading Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell. It was stupid and short sighted, but sort of over criticized in the writers eyes. Not mine though.

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