Sunday, September 6, 2009

Guest Post: Reasons to support the Scott Kazmir trade

Editor: This is a guest post from Stephanie, a fervent Rays fan who wanted to get her thoughts about the trade that sent Scott Kazmir to the Angels. Rays Revolutionary has gone on record questioning the timing of the trade during a playoff hunt. Stephanie provides a differing view point.

I had been so busy at work on that Friday that I hadn't had a chance
to look at any baseball related news. On my way home, I got a message
asking me what I thought of the Kaz trade. It was a good thing I was
at a red light when I read it, as I might have driven off the road
otherwise - I didn't have a clue what was going on, all I knew is that
I didn't want to lose Kaz. Having watched what was Kaz's last start
at the Trop in a Rays uniform (though I didn't know it at the time),
the standing ovation he received made me think of him as the prodigal
son for all long-time Rays fans. He had taken a lot from the fans in
the first half of the year, but the emotion behind the ovation was
more than just fans being happy about a well-pitched game, it was
pride in watching our boy return to form as the best pitcher the Rays
ever had. For me, Scotty was more than just a baseball player, and
trading him hit me personally. Although I had been crushed when Sonny
and Joe Nelson were sent down, at least they were still in the

Unlike the rest of the fanbase, who has gone through the same sadness
and confusion that I did, I haven't felt the anger or resignation that
a lot of people have expressed. Some people have accused me of being
a fangirl, and they're right. I am a big fan of not only the team,
but of the front office, and where possible, I'm going to look for
reasons to support what they do.

It is clear that the decision to trade Scott Kazmir carried a heavy
price. We can debate the odds that the Rays were going to make the
playoffs before and after the trade, whether it hurt the team or
helped. Either way, they've taken a big hit in terms of public
perception and fan reaction. They have certainly lost some ticket
sales, some merchandise sales, some fan loyalty. I don't know the
exact dollar figure, but it was certainly a predictable loss. The
front office isn't stupid either - they knew that this reaction would
happen. Any discussion of the Kazmir trade, then, starts with one of
two possibilities. Either the team is run by complete morons who woke
up one morning and decided that slapping the fanbase would be a good
lark or they felt that the hit they would take for trading him would
be worth it.

Is it a straight salary dump? I think it's hard to argue that it is.
If we wind up with a significantly lower payroll next year, I'll take
this statement back, but I'm guessing, between contract increases,
Garza, Upton, Howell, and Bartlett all going to arb. or being signed
to a long term deal, and needing to do something with Niemann, that
the 2010 payroll will be higher. Nor do I think it was dumping salary
for this year alone; I would estimate between the salaries they added
after the deadline combined with the hit in attendance that it comes
out essentially neutral.

So if it wasn't salary, what could make it worth the hit to trade him
in the middle of the wild card hunt? I believe it was a pure risk
evaluation. There's a lot we'll never know about players, and I won't
pretend to guess at what information the front office has on Kaz. I
do know that, before the year started, there were a fair number of
journalists and sportswriters arguing that the Rays should trade
Kazmir because he had peaked. I don't really agree with that, but
there were enough people repeating it that the idea was at least out
there. Unfortunately, Kaz didn't do a whole lot to refute the theory
during his first half. It was undeniably bad. 7.11 ERA, 1.79 WHIP
He had worked back up to an ERA+ of 77 by the time he was traded. If
he finished out the year strong, teams would probably be willing to
chalk up the first half to a fluke. It's not inconceivable, however,
that he could have ended up with a couple more bad starts - say, rough
outings at New Yankee Stadium and at Fenway - even if all his
mechanical and psychological issues are truly behind him and he has
returned to form as a dominate pitcher. The Rays would be left in the
uncomfortable position of trying to trade a starter with a 6 or 7 ERA
with a reputation for being emotional and due $22.5 million. During
the off season, their leverage would be next to non-existent, as
everyone knows the Rays payroll has limitations and Kaz is a big chunk
of that. As a free agent, almost everyone would take a chance on
Kazmir, in a trade, the centerpiece might well have been the money,
with some roster hamsters thrown in as secondary considerations.

There's a further risk - the economy has changed. Remember that the
Yankees didn't pull the trigger on a trade for Brian Bannister because
the *Royals* wouldn't kick in a few hundred thousand dollars. It's
easy to say that they'd be able to trade with all 29 teams after the
season, but it's not really the case - you're still talking about
being limited to probably 4 or 5 teams or so, 2 of which are in the

I'm not *happy* about Kazmir traded, and I'm less happy about the
timing. However, the market size and share of the Rays means that
hard decisions are going to have to be made sometimes. Sternberg's
"get used to it" comment riled a lot of people, but I think it's a
fair comment. They're going to have to make trades and decisions that
are difficult and sometimes not optimal because they can't afford to
do otherwise. Once I accepted that, I don't think the trade looks
awful. I want the Rays to do everything they can to maximize their
chances at the playoffs this year - but I keep in mind that this team
isn't build to just contend this year; they're built for a decade of
dominance. The reason running a major league team is hard is because
questions don't have easy answers. Weighing the risk of Kaz finishing
poorly, the risk of making bad trade, the risk of not being able to
make a trade at all, the changed economy, the hit to playoff chances
this year, playoff chances next year, the hit with the fanbase...there
are an awful lot of competing factors.

I don't know whether the Kazmir trade will end up being good or bad.
There will be times that the front office will end up making bad
decisions, whether this one or others. The bottom line for me is that
I do trust that the front office is absolutely vested in putting a
superior team on the field, year in and year out. They won't be
perfect, but I don't know anyone that I would rather have running this
team. This trade has done nothing to change how I feel about the
team. It's been a rough year, but it's also been our 2nd best year
ever. We are playing meaningful games in September, for the 2nd year
in a row, and the 2nd year ever. Not much broke right for us this
year, but we have an outside chance now, and next year looks good.
That's worth supporting.


Bud Light said...

Where's the "different view"...sounds like rehash
of obvious "average" fans feelings....
The Rays (Sternberg & Co) did what they HAD to do... to keep somewhat of a team for 2010....
Kazmir was too expensive and dispensible per his regular shit performance...they are looking smarter and smarter everday as playoffs are bye bye and Kazmir would not have changed that!
Besides Kazmir is in a better place...The other Rays can watch their buddy on TV in the playoffs,
and maybe series for his 2nd straight year?

Michael Weber said...

I would argue that the Rays recent performance stems from a lack of confidence following the Scotty Kazmir trade. Whether you'd like to admit it or not, this team definitely looks resigned to their fate as the 3rd place team in the AL East. That resignation started the night Kazmir was traded.

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