Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bye-bye, Scotty. Bye-bye, season.

Shocked. That's the emotion I felt when I heard the first rumblings of the Scotty Kazmir trade. Why trade Kazmir? Why now? Why trade a starter when the wild card is still up for grabs?

The mechanics of the trade are simple. The Rays moved the franchise's all-time wins leaders for 2 prospects.  The Anaheim Angels get Scott Kazmir. The Rays get left-handed pitcher Alex Torres, third-baseman Matt Sweeney, and the ever popular "Player to be Named Later." To boil it down: The Rays, in the middle of a playoff hunt, traded for prospects.

To say I'm upset about this turn of events is an understatement. The Rays were getting ready to face a do or die stretch of their season.  They are still in a playoff hunt.  They were 3.5 games behind the Boston Red Sox with 6 games remaining against them. And instead of facing the stretch head on, management trades one of the starting pitchers. Not only that, they trade a starting pitcher that's actually looked good his last couple of starts. Kazmir was someone who could actually help the team now.

As it stands now, it looks like the Rays' front office threw in the towel. I know that some are saying the Rays were looking toward the future. I know that some say the Rays are just selling high. But, I say they're giving up. Does anyone actually think the Rays couldn't get an AA pitcher and a single-A 3rd baseman in the offseason?  Why the rush?

Of course, Andrew Friedman and company could have a master plan.  They say they don't make moves in a vacuum. But, if that's the case, they handled today real poorly.  The rumors started flying hours before the game and we didn't get official word until after the game with a short press release saying a bunch of things we already knew. Kazmir had to find out from reporters in the locker room before the game!

And even if I do accept the premise that this was "just business," what about the team? Think about the message this kind of move sends to the team.  To me, the team looked shell-shocked. They didn't want to be there. If Scotty gets sent west, who's next? We're all one team. Right?

I hope this is more than just a salary dump. But, to be honest, something really stinks here.  This is only the 2nd time the Rays have ever contended this late in the season and here we are doing the same thing we did before last year. To me, it's as if the curtain has been pulled back on the wizard.


Matty said...

Buster Olney on Baseball Tonight summed it up best: "This is the kind of juggling small market teams have to make and it's too bad, but that's the reality of baseball."

He also said that the starting pitching has been disappointing which is very true. They expected Garza to be a frontline starter this year and it hasn't happened. Shields has regressed, and Kaz's ERA was over 6.

Olney also added that Pena, Crawford, and Burrell have salary jumps next year, ballooning the payroll to $70 million already -- $70 million! What else can Sternberg do without a salary cap??

Finally, Olney said the Rays are much like Cleveland (which I have been harping on all year) in that they have a small margin of error. Trading Edwin didn't work, and signing Burrell didn't work. The starters' ERA's are up, so what are the consequences? Trading Kaz.

Welcome to the reality of small market baseball. The Rays have only had one winning season so far, but this is the cold reality of baseball, so I don't think as fans we're used to this (just ask fans of Toronto, Cleveland, Minnesota, Pittsburgh about stars being traded).

I am impressed with the Rays front office in that they manage the team and payroll with their heads and not with their hearts. That's the only way to sustain long term success.

Anonymous said...

You all hate on the Yankees & Red Sux but I bet you wish Rays could spend like them now, don't cha? Just sayin'. :-)


Michael Weber said...

Matt, I'm still waiting for you to show me where a contending team has traded starting pitching while still in the wild card hunt. You can spin it any way you like, but it's still a boneheaded move.

Joel said...

I posted my comment over on Rays Index, but I'll summarize:

Clearly we've been trying to trade Kazmir most of this season (at least). He started to pitch well, so Friedman saw his chance to get a decent return.

Don't get me wrong: I hate it. I still think Kaz could come close to being 2007 Kaz again. But the team still has more viable starting pitchers than they can afford. Maybe they don't make this trade if we're 4 games ahead in the wildcard instead of behind, but I'm not so sure. Friedman's job is to make this team competitive consistently; as much as I will stew about this trade, I'd rather have consistent competitiveness than the fire-sale model the Marlins used to - and to a certain degree still - employ.

Michael Weber said...

I'm still not sure that we're not looking at the fire-sale model. Some are saying that this means they're freeing up money to spend on Crawford. I won't believe that until I see it. It could get real painful in the off-season.

Matty said...

They still could trade Crawford, there's no question. What illusion were you under? Yes, Mike, there is a budget and phantom salary cap for the Rays. Sternberg has come out and said $65 million is about the limit for the Rays. Okay, so he has to operate his business around that number, while the Yankees and Red Sox can go crazy. Have you not been watching how teams like the Indians, Twins, Blue Jays, and Reds handle their teams in the same manner? This is baseball. The only league that truly has haves and have-nots. Don't whine and bitch about the front office. Whine and bitch to Bud Selig for creating an environment which favors certain teams.

Joel said...

You're certainly right that the fire sale could still happen; but in the end both sides of the speculation are, well, speculating.

As disappointed as I'll be to not see Kaz in a Rays uniform anymore, I'm still more than prepared to give Friedman the benefit of the doubt - his good moves far outnumber his "bad" moves so far, and you know I'm with you in believing the infamous Jackson/Joyce trade was not a bad move (not that I'm comparing these two trades, as they are drastically different in both timing and talent involved).

The point is that Friedman's performance has been very stellar so far, and he has always followed through with a master plan of sorts. He'll have to pull a few more boneheaded moves in order for me to believe that he's a bad GM.

For now all we can do is stew about the trade, speculate like the crazy fans that we are and wait for the master plan. If the master plan ends up involving Brandon Wood, then chalk another one up for Friedman (Wood sounds like too much for Kazmir).

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