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April 9, 2009

Prospectus Today

Deal Away the Steal of the Decade?

by Joe Sheehan

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I suppose I could go absolutely ballistic again over the way a manager-the way the industry-runs a bullpen, but let's just leave it at this and move on.

Last night, Scott Kazmir allowed one run over six innings, striking out five. The outing helped the Rays get their first win of the season, 7-2 over the Red Sox. Coming off of the previous day's James Shields disaster, Kazmir's performance had to encourage the Rays, who are starting the season without their best possible rotation as David Price opens the season at Triple-A, part of a workload-management program. Kazmir's good work is likely going to be critical for a team that sees itself as a contender for another AL East crown.

So, I think they should trade him. Kazmir is exactly the kind of player who should be marketed aggressively by his team, especially when he's going well, because his perceived value is much higher than his actual value. Kazmir is a left-handed starter who throws in the mid to high 90s, has a strong breaking ball and is young enough to get people excited about his potential. In part because of the circumstances of his becoming a Ray, one of the worst trades of the decade, Kazmir has had a disproportionate amount of attention focused on him since before he ever threw a major league pitch.

Separate the pitcher out from all of that, and you get someone who is good, but not great, someone high-risk with a decreasing likelihood of high reward. Someone who fits the mold of a player who brings you back more, considering the money you'll save on his (reasonable) contract, than you're going to get from him on the mound.

The primary reason for this is that Kazmir doesn't have enough command to be an ace. Additionally, the amount of stress he puts on his body, throwing as many pitches as he does from the stretch and at max effort, put him at risk for injury. The combination of these factors is the best data point in my argument: Kazmir has made a full complement of starts just twice in his four seasons, and he's thrown 200 innings in a season once. Without the ability to give a team 200 or more innings, no pitcher can be a #1 starter.

Kazmir is very difficult to hit, to be sure. He's struck out a quarter of the batters he's faced in his career, and was a tick above that level last year. However, he also walks a lot of hitters, giving out free passes to a bit more than 10% of the hitters he's faced. He's improved slightly in this regard, but his 10.6% walk rate last year was right in line with his career average. As you look into his performance over the past few seasons, you see that on a per-pitch level, he's not developing; he's throwing the same number of strikes, missing the same number of bats, that he did two years prior. He is, as they say, what we think he is.

Looking forward, the Rays have Kazmir under control up to four more seasons, thanks to a three-year contract extension that kicked in this week. Kazmir is guaranteed $6 million, $8 million, and $12 million over the next three years, with a $13.5 million club option on his services for 2012, and a $2.5 million buyout should his owners pass on that. That contact is both the best reason to keep him-he's a cheap mid-rotation starter even if he never develops a bit-and the best reason to trade him-that's a lot of money committed to a small, high-effort pitcher who hasn't been durable. The contract would likely be a net benefit in dealing Kazmir, as any team who likes him enough to deal for him would see having him locked up into the next election cycle as a plus.

Now, the Rays can consider dealing their nominal #2 starter because of the depth they have in house. In a few short months, they're going to have to find a place for David Price, who is certainly no worse than Kazmir at this moment. They just dumped Jason Hammel, a perfectly functional fifth starter, solely because he was out of options and so were they. In addition to Price, Wade Davis is basically ready to step into a big-league rotation, and Jeremy Hellickson will certainly be so by Opening Day 2010. The Rays are going to have to trade starting pitching at some point, and I don't mean more moves like punting Hammel. Kazmir is the most expensive and the most high-risk of the bunch. He'll bring back much, much more than Andrew Sonnanstine or a Davis/Hellickson package will in a deal.

In fact, the Rays have so much talent on hand that the most difficult question to answer in trading Kazmir is what to look for in return. The weakest spots at the major league level are right field and the middle infield, though 2008 first-round pick Tim Beckham will likely address the latter issue. If you were going to backfill behind guys, you'd look for a top-tier catching prospect to eventually supplant Dioner Navarro, or perhaps a center fielder who will eventually move B.J. Upton to a corner.

It's probably better to look at this as a talent grab, worrying about positions later. Find a team that would love to add what they see as a potential ace starter for the next four years at sub-Peavy pricing, and pick through their top prospects list. Could you get the Indians, desperate for starting pitching, to part with Carlos Santana and some pitching? Would the Rangers cash in some of their talent, specifically Derek Holland, for a chance to push the Angels this year and lock in some certainty in the years to follow? That's the kind of deal the Rays should be looking to make with Kazmir.

To some extent, this is shorting a stock. It is my opinion that Scott Kazmir isn't going to get any better than he is right now, despite that incredibly live arm, and that it's very possible he takes a sharp turn south. I'd be willing, given the state of the Rays' pitching staff, to roll the dice on dealing away Kazmir's upside in exchange for the talent I could get for doing so, the money I'd save, and changing the risk profile of my team. The Rays, quite simply, might never miss Kazmir. Forget Price; Davis and Hellickson are fairly likely to match Kazmir's performance over the 2009-12 period. The money saved can go to B.J. Upton, Matt Garza, or even a free agent who completes a championship team in the early 2010s.

The Rays have shown a willingness to do it differently. This move, radical and right, would fit their modus operandi and make them better situated to win.

--

I wish I had something worthwhile to say about Nick Adenhart. I wish that I were smart enough, creative enough, sensitive enough, to dig inside and find words that would make this feel a little bit better. I have spent my day doing so, and not for you, reader, but for myself, and I have failed.

A 22-year-old man, who had just reached the apex of his profession, who had his career and his life laid out ahead of him, is dead, along with two of his friends, guilty of nothing other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I write a lot about fairness in baseball, but this isn't an unbalanced schedule or ill-conceived revenue sharing or an unjust draft. This is unfairness that makes you open a window and scream, makes you stare blankly at a screen, forgetting the last thought you had, because you keep flashing back to what 22 was like, and how good it felt, and how no one should have it taken away from them.

I don't know whether a moment like this is supposed to make you embrace God or question his existence. I suppose I've done both today.

I wish I could do more. This isn't enough. It could never be enough.

To the family, friends, teammates, and fans of Nick Adenhart, and to the victim who died with him, I offer my heartfelt sympathies. My thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Scott Kazmir

42 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Schlom

Would moving Kazmir into the bullpen make sense as well? A lot of closers seem to be hard-throwers that can't throw enough strikes to be starters -- that certainly seems to fit Kazmir. In the AL East the Rays don't have much margin for error so should they trade away a player that can help them right now for future potential?

Apr 09, 2009 16:09 PM
rating: 1
 
Fresh Hops

His stock crashes as soon as you do that. He's worth more as trade bait than in the pen.

Apr 10, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: 0
 
Clonod

Kazmir may not get much better, but I think you're underselling him.

ERA+ of 116, 142, 130, and 127, despite facing the Yankees and Sox a combined 32 times in that span. (BTW, a 3.22 ERA against those teams).

No, he doesn't make it very far into games, but isn't a deep rotation exactly where you want someone fitting his profile? Shields, Garza, and eventually Price can ensure that the bullpen isn't overtaxed, and Kazmir can come in and be a weapon for 6 innings every five days.

He isn't the second coming of Johan Santana, but he's a damned good pitcher. Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I don't think contenders should trade top-tier (or close to it) talent.

Apr 09, 2009 16:24 PM
rating: 5
 
BillJohnson

Seconded re Adenhart.

As for Kaz, is what's wrong with him anything that a good pitching coach might fix? If the Cardinals could deal something from their ridiculously deep stable of major-league-average-or-a-bit-better outfielders, maybe with some juicy minor leaguer thrown in, to get him, could Dave Duncan make a real stud out of him?

Apr 09, 2009 16:59 PM
rating: 0
 
MikeJordan23

Kazmir for Brett Wallace, Jess Todd and maybe Francisco Samuel?

Apr 09, 2009 18:54 PM
rating: 1
 
BillJohnson

I wouldn't make that deal as St. Louis, or anything remotely like it, until the concerns with Kazmir's durability are addressed. Joe's point, if I understand it correctly, is that Kaz isn't as valuable as he appears to be, because of the likelihood that he's going to break down. Surely that is known elsewhere in baseball and is going to hold down his trade value, particularly in places like St. Louis that have been burned repeatedly by dinged-up pitchers. If I was Mozeliak, I wouldn't even trade Wallace straight up for him, even though Kaz is clearly the more valuable commodity IF he's healthy. Big if.

Apr 10, 2009 07:09 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member MattBishoff
BP staff

maybe Rick Peterson can fix him in 10 minutes

Apr 09, 2009 20:28 PM
 
warmsox

As a Mets fan, this comment just made me weep openly.

Apr 10, 2009 11:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Charles Kurz

Beautiful writeup on Adenhart, Joe. You certainly did not fail in that regard.

I think the idea of trading Kazmir from the Rays perspective and I think it makes alot of sense for them, but if they looked to move Sonnanstine, does anybody think the Mets should jump on that opportunity? I think the non-Johan part of the Mets rotation leaves a ton to be desired and is not quite up to snuff come playoff time (*knocks on wood*)

With the Rays need for a corner outfielder, and their lack of a spot for Sonnanstine once Price arrives, how do you guys like a potential Nick Evans and Jenrry Mejia for Sonnanstine swap between the two teams?

Apr 09, 2009 17:35 PM
rating: 0
 
Hoff

Kaz is really the greatest risk among the bunch including 3 guys with less than 40 major league innings between them?

Apr 09, 2009 17:36 PM
rating: 1
 
ScottyB

The argument for trading Kazmir now is the same one the Mets used a few years ago. That didn't work out too well; I suspect this wouldn't either.

Apr 09, 2009 17:59 PM
rating: 1
 
jetson
(660)

Here's what I don't get - Kazmir has been putting up basically the same rate stats for several years and "he's not developing". But yesterday we were told that Felix Hernandez, who has been putting up the same rate stats for several years, is about to go ape-youknowwhat all over the league.

Help me out here.

Apr 09, 2009 18:51 PM
rating: 1
 
Adam Hobson

There's a difference between Felix Hernandez and Scott Kazmir. As has been pointed out before, Kazmir's last four ERA+'s have been 116, 142, 130, and 127, which is good, but as much as four seasons can form a pattern, that pattern is a plateau. More importantly though, over the last four season Kazmir has only pitched 186, 144.2, 206.2 and 152.1 innings. To go along with that, Kazmir is only listed as 6'0", 170, which is probably generous. Now smaller pitchers can excel, but they tend to be the exception to the rule, and workload and injuries are always an issue with them.

Now Felix Hernandez is two year younger than Kazmir, his last three ERA+'s have been 98, 110 and 122, a very upward pattern. He's pitched at least 190 innings and made 30 starts each of the past three years. His body type is also ideal at 6'3", 225. As you can see by his ERA+, he's not even the pitcher that Scott Kazmir is ... yet. But all signs point to him getting better and being more valuable in the future, with the key being that he can consistently make 30+ starts and reach 200+ innings.

Of course the biggest difference is that Tampa Bay has David Price (and Wade Davis and Jeremy Hellickson) who can step into the Tampa rotation within the next year or two and provide just as much value to Tampa as Kazmir does, at far less cost. Seattle doesn't have these pitchers. Seattle needs Hernandez in its rotation today and will need him there two years from now. Tampa Bay doesn't really need Kazmir. He's certainly nice to have, but Tampa Bay has other options. The value that he would extract in a trade is almost certainly going to be greater than the difference in value between what Kazmir gives the Rays now and what David Price or Wade David would. Pitching is a strength for Tampa, it might make sense to trade from that strength to fill other weaknesses.

Apr 09, 2009 20:36 PM
rating: 7
 
jetson
(660)

The "upward trend" in ERA+ doesn't support real improvement if you look inside the numbers. The only notable improvement over the last 3 years has been the HR rate and that appears random in that the flyball rate has actually gotten a bit worse the last two years.

And what makes you think Felix will stay healthy and give you 30 starts per year? That's presumptious for any pitcher.

Apr 10, 2009 11:38 AM
rating: 0
 
Adam Hobson

Well yeah, you never know if any pitcher, hell any player will stay healthy. But considering that Felix Hernandez has made at least 30 starts each and every year since he was called up, I think he's as good a bet as any pitcher to make 30 starts this year and next year.

Apr 10, 2009 12:40 PM
rating: 0
 
Alex Schwartz

There's a lot of mileage on a really young arm there. I think this might be an example where his usage as a young pitcher creates a larger injury risk through his age 26 or age 27 season.

Apr 10, 2009 21:28 PM
rating: 0
 
PeteyShoes

Most Rays fans are in agreement that Kaz is probably going to get dealt at some point, but right now or at the deadline doesn't really make sense. As wonderful as David Price is, Kaz is going to give us (well, not me, but the Rays) a really good chance to win a pennant this year and flags fly forever. Yes, he has a high risk profile and yes, his arm could fall off at some point this year, but flags fly forever.

Also, like some of the other comments have noted, you're kind of under selling Kaz's effectiveness.

As for Percy, it's shame that Maddon is too loyal. He understands the concept of high leverage relievers instead of closers... hell, when he first arrived, he used the phrase "amorphic bullpen". Hopefully he has a shorter leash with Percival than he did last year. If he doesn't or Friedman doesn't issue an ultimatum (or better yet, take the sunk cost and DFA Percy), it could cost the Rays October.

Apr 09, 2009 20:06 PM
rating: 2
 
RaysProf

I agree with you PeteyShoes about Kaz, but disagree on the issue of Percy. If anyone had a short leash last year it was Percy. Think of the number of times Percy was pulled because of "injury." Sometimes it was obvious..and sometimes, after multiple walks, it was not. Last year, as a closer, Percy was successful 28 out of 32 in save opportunities (comparable with most better "closers") and lost only 1 game.

It is also clear that Maddon knows how to play the psychology game. He never makes negative comments about a player. Hence, I take what he says with a grain of salt.

Apr 09, 2009 20:46 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

Yeah I'm going to have to disagree on trading him, for a number of reasons.

1. 2009 is his age 25 season. I think its forgivable that he hasn't quite turned into Steve Carlton just yet. Sure, his control and command are not really elite level yet, but his raw arm strength is certainly elite, and he has one great secondary pitch.

2. I think its pretty obvious he was rushed to the big leagues. He threw 109 innings in his age 19 season between A and A+, and 101 innings in his age 20 season A, A+ and AA. The K numbers were excellent, hit rate was fine, and the walks weren't out of control, but there was no reason to bring him up when they did. Much like Jeremy Bonderman, who was similarly rushed, it wasn't smooth sailing. But...

3. He's been very good when healthy. A 125 ERA+ is pretty damn good. Here's a list of active MLB starters (from B-R) with an ERA+ of 125 or above

Tim Hudson
John Smoltz
Carlos Zambrano
Roy Halladay
Randy Johnson
Roy Oswalt
Brandon Webb
Johan Santana
Pedro Martinez

Would you have traded any of those guys after their age 24 season? Maybe, and you'd have regretted it.

3. Speaking of Johan Santana. His story is well told by now, but its worth noting that his breakout didn't really come until his age 24 season. He teetered in the pen for a while before really getting a long look. So I wanted to look at their numbers...

Santana, age 24: 158.1 IP -- 127 H -- 47 BB -- 169 K -- 17 HR, 148 ERA+
Santana, age 21-23: 238 IP -- 236 H -- 119 BB -- 229 K -- 24 HR, 104 ERA+

Kazmir, age 24: 152 IP -- 123 H -- 70 BB -- 166 K -- 23 HR, 127 ERA+
Kazmir, age 20-23: 570 IP -- 533 H -- 262 BB -- 617 K -- 49 HR, 123 ERA+

Kazmir has a much deeper body of work and much more success at the major league level than Santana had before they both hit age 24. Santana's breakout at age 24 was bigger, but Kazmir's age 24 season is nothing to sneeze at.

Santana, age 25: 228 IP -- 156 H -- 54 BB -- 265 K -- 24 HR

Who knows what Kazmir will do. But if he breaks out and puts up a season close to what Johan did, then what? Johan, by the way, is his #2 comparable according to PECOTA.

As an aside, comparing Kazmir to another hard throwing lefty with control problems at times, Randy Johnson didn't make it to the majors until the age of 24, and in his age 26, 27 and 28 seasons, he walked 120, 152, and 144 while posting ERA+ numbers of 108, 103 and 105. His big breakout didn't come until his age 29 season.

4. So you bring up value. Kazmir is set to make $6M, $8M, and $12M over the next three seasons, then an option for $13.5M in 2012. His MORP values over the next three seasons; $9.8M, $11.4M, and $10.5M. His option year is valued at $8.9M. This of course presumes his next three seasons chart out exactly as he's projected right now. His real salary pays him $26M over three years, his MORP is at $31.7M over that span. His percentiles for this season

50th percentile: 160 IP -- 3.86 ERA -- 1.28 WHIP -- 4.1 WARP
60th percentile: 169 IP -- 3.53 ERA -- 1.23 WHIP -- 5.0 WARP
75th percentile: 178 IP -- 3.22 ERA -- 1.19 WHIP -- 5.9 WARP

If he hits his 75th percentile projection, his valuation for 2010 and 2011 will rise quite a bit.

5. To me, the Rays should definitely keep him unless someone wants to blow them away with an offer. He's not expensive by quality pitcher standards, in fact, I think he's actually somewhat of a bargain. Is he a 225 inning workhorse right now? No. But who's to say he can't become that? He's now out of the 18-24 danger zone, and the team was careful with him last year. But when he's healthy, he's a well above average starting pitcher, and he's just entering his age 25 season. The Rays have depth in the minors, if Kazmir has to miss 2 weeks here or there, then so be it, you plug Wade Davis into his spot for those 2 weeks. But I think its foolish to trade a special arm signed to a good contract unless someone is going to just blow you away, like the Reds offering Jay Bruce. But if you (Joe) are concerned about his arm, I'm sure most GM's are, and I'm sure most of them would hesitate to empty the farm or trade a franchise player for a "risky pitcher" in Kazmir.

His greatest value is to the Rays. If he doesn't break out and he is what he is right now, he's still a well above average starter signed for 3 years, his age 25-27 seasons and then you figure out what to do with him later. If he breaks out, he's one of the best starters in the American League, in the toughest division in baseball.

Apr 09, 2009 20:29 PM
rating: 9
 
Adam Hobson

2. Considering what Jeremy Bonderman has become, that's not a good comparison at all.

3. You're not comparing Apples to Apples. Your are comparing a pitcher at his peak to the careers at pitchers past their peak. Kazmir hasn't reached his decline phase yet. His ERA+ will likely decline before then.

But speaking of players with ERA+ of 125 before their 25th birthday, you think it may have made sense to trade a guy like Mark Prior before he flamed out? And hell, even looking at your list, do you think the Cubs would wish that they could go back in time and trade Carlos Zambrano before they gave him his big contract and he started his decline phase. I'm guessing that the A's are ecstatic that they traded both Hudson and Mulder before they declined. The Diamond Backs have apparently already pulled a big contract offer to Webb because they are worried about paying for past performance rather than future.

4. A MORP of $31.7 is pretty good compared to a cost of $26 million, but I'm thinking that even a bad trade would net more than $6 million in value. And one of the reason why his MORP isn't really that high, is because Kazmir is more talented than he is valuable. His body type, delivery and injury propensity limit how many innings he can pitch which ultimately decreases his actual value.

5. I think that's the point that Joe is getting at. He's not proposing that the Rays trade Kazmir for another Victor Zambrano. He's proposing that they ask for the best studly prospects they can from other teams. If no one nibbles on an offer, then keep him. But if they can get a Carlos Santana (who's probably the best catching prospect this side of Wieters) plus another real prospect or two, then that may be worth it.

Apr 09, 2009 20:53 PM
rating: 2
 
phuturephillies

I wasn't comparing him to Jeremy Bonderman, I was simply pointing out that players rushed to the bigs often times develop slowly. Some of them flame out, some of them get hurt, and some of them eventually break out and turn into elite pitchers. His decline phase certainly isn't factored into his ERA+, but who knows what his next 5 years will look like. If he averages an ERA+ of 125 over the next 5 years (conservative), he's still an upper echelon arm. I just happen to think there's more in the tank and he's being undersold here.

And because of the red flags, it seems unlikely a team is going to break the bank for him via trade. The Cubs were offering Vitters (a pretty solid prospect) plus a bunch of other stuff for Jake Peavy. Peavy is older, more expensive, and has just as much risk for injury as Kazmir. The Rays are now a competing team, not a feeder club for the Red Sox and Yankees. They shouldn't be trading their best players unless they are getting elite MLB talent in return.

Apr 09, 2009 21:01 PM
rating: 0
 
Adam Hobson

You're right that the Rays are a competing team NOW. However, they just won't have the payroll to stay competitive much past two or three years unless they are willing to take chances. Eventually they need to pay Upton, Shields, Kazmir, Crawford. Even Longoria, who has a sweet contract team-wise, will eventually cost significant dollars, even if those dollars are still a huge value compared to his talent. They will also need to surround that core with supporting players and the Pat Burrell's of the world won't be had for pennies on the dollar every offseason. The prospect talent supply coming into the Rays will start to slow as well now that they'll be picking at the end of the draft rather than the front. Will they have the money to go over slot, or will it even matter with more and more teams will to go over slot? They are in the toughest division in baseball, hell even the Orioles look poised to compete maybe as early as next year, and while they don't have Yankees or Red Sox money, the Baltimore area supports a team far better than Tampa, and they'll have money to pay for their core.

I guess the Rays have to decide whether they want to follow the Marlins path and go for broke and then sell off the entire team to rebuild, or will they follow the Twins and A's (at least until recently) path and attempt to continuously compete.

Apr 09, 2009 21:52 PM
rating: 1
 
amitche1
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Joe, you are hammered if you think shopping Kaz is a good idea. "mid-rotation starter"? ha. he's 30% better than league average, cheap, young, and misses bats. To knock him for being short is old-school and lame. If he had been throwing 200 IP every year since age 22, you'd be all over his workload.

He's a better pitcher than shields, garza, and probably price. I'm not saying they shouldn't listen if the sox want to offer lars and bowden, but the Rays should not be shopping this guy.

Your point about his inability to last 8 innings is valid, but you are focusing too much on what he can't do and missing what he does. he's not pedro. but he's not sheets, either.

Apr 09, 2009 21:13 PM
rating: -4
 
Adam Hobson

He's 30% better than league average *when* he pitches. When you consider that he'll probably have more seasons of 160 innings than 200 innings, his overall value will be more equal to that of a mid rotation starter (on a competing team, not just an average team, which is what the Rays are trying to be). I have a feeling his career won't look all that differently from AJ Burnett when all is said and done, which is kinda funny because both pitchers seem to own their AL East rivals, while letting up on non-divisional teams.

Again I think there are two keys to realize. One is that Kazmir is a really good pitcher, but he'll probably just stay really good rather than taking the jump to "Ace". The second is that the Rays have a TON of pitching talent. Now it may be true that you can never have enough pitching, but sometimes you have enough to consider taking chances. Thus IF you can trade him for six seasons of another stud, plus some other prospects, then you do so, because there's more value there. However, if no teams offer a stud or two, then you don't bite. The Rays don't have to trade him, but if they can get the right deal, it may be the smart move.

Apr 09, 2009 22:03 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

Kazmir's WARP and IP the last 3 seasons

2008: 3.2 WARP, 152.1
2007: 5.7 WARP, 206.2
2006: 4.9 WARP, 144.2

His 4.9 WARP in 2006, even in only 144 innings, was pretty valuable to a bad team. Just for comparison, look at another guy with injury risks in Josh Beckett

2008: 2.9 WARP, 174.1 IP
2007: 4.8 WARP, 200.2 IP
2006: 2.6 WARP, 204.2 IP

Kazmir has been more valuable than Josh Beckett over the last three seasons (13.8 to 10.3) and he's done it in less innings.

200 IP starters don't grow on trees. 200 IP starters that are actually excellent when on the mound are even more rare. But I think Kazmir for 160 IP with a WARP between 4.5 and 5.5 + 50 innings from one of your pitching prospects, with a WARP of 0.1-0.5, still makes him more than worth it.

Like I said, if the Reds call and offer Jay Bruce and Cueto for Kazmir, sure, I listen. But I don't see the need to trade him for prospects. They seem willing to use the draft to their advantage to a degree, just because they won't be picking in the top 3 doesn't mean the system is about to fall off the map. They can follow Boston's lead in exploiting the market inefficiencies in the draft.

As for the salary, the payroll jumped from $43M last year to $63M this year. Here are the core long term commitments after 2009

Pena, 2/$18
Kazmir, 2/$20
Iwamura, 1/$3.5
Burrell, 1/$9
Crawford, 1/$10 (option)
Wheeler, 2/$6.7
Shields, 3/$8.25 (plus two more options)
Longoria, 5/$17

Upton will be arb eligible for the first time after 2009, so while he'll make a few million, he won't break the bank. Garza will have less than 3 years of service, but will probably be a Super 2, again though, not a huge dollar figure. Then you've got the fringe arb eligibles like Navarro, Bartlett and Balfour. I don't see a ballooning payroll here.

The big trading chip, and the guy who's perceived value is much higher than his actual value, is Carl Crawford. He's making $8.25M this year, with a $10M option for 2010. They should move him if they want to add prospects, I'm sure GM's would fall over themselves to grab him. An average defensive LF with great speed and a .330 OB% is easier to replace than a potential #1/2 SP.


Apr 09, 2009 22:24 PM
rating: 7
 
Adam Hobson

I don't really think that we're all that far apart in our thinking. A Kazmir for Jay Bruce is the type of trade that the Rays should be inquiring about. Like I said, the Rays shouldn't just trade him to trade him. They need to trade him for another stud. I'm not saying that other teams would make these trades, but the Rays should certainly entertain offers of guys like Bruce, or Travis Snider or Carlos Santana or Jason Heyward. Go for a trade like how the Marlins turned Josh Becket (who was only 25 at the time) and Mike Lowell into Hanley Ramirez and Anibel Sanchez. I also think they shouldn't think about this midseason unless a big injury hits one of their big hitters. Instead start the inquiries this offseason, after David Price will likely have established himself, and Kazmir really would be the 3rd starter on the team.

I also like the idea of trading Crawford while his value is high. Speed guys don't age well, his defense use to be outstanding for left, but now it's just above average, and if he hasn't developed patience at the plate by now, he never will. Trading him this year wouldn't make sense because they don't have anyone to replace him with. Yea, Burrell could move from DH to left, but then who DHs? Picking up his option and then trading him this offseason makes a ton of sense. Desmond Jennings could take his place in left, or play center and force Upton to a corner. And I'm not too sure about baseball insiders, but I think most people tend to overrate Crawford because of his steels and what that means to their fantasy baseball team.

I just think that teams with limited payrolls - and the Rays probably are limited to around the $63 million they spent this year (if even that) - shouldn't get too emotional over their current players and look to trade them at the right moment to maximize their value. Teams like the Yankees can spend $20 million a year so Derek Jeter can retire a Yankee, but most teams need to operate at a different level.

Apr 10, 2009 00:10 AM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Will Carroll
BP staff

If you two don't enter BP Idol, I'm going to be disappointed.

Apr 10, 2009 08:57 AM
 
gmulligan1

As a bitter Mets fan, let me just say that I would be more than happy to swap Ollie Perez for him, straight up. And I'd even throw in a spare corner outfielder to boot.

Apr 09, 2009 21:36 PM
rating: 4
 
jlefty

And I'd even throw in a spare corner outfielder to boot.

The Mets have one of those?

Apr 10, 2009 06:29 AM
rating: 1
 
Hoff

Gary Sheffield, future Hall of Famer! :)

Apr 10, 2009 07:40 AM
rating: 1
 
Ira

Let me say this. I think that the Rays should definitely trade Kazmir to the Rangers. And right now. But not for Derrek Holland. For two reasons. One, Holland is too close to the majors for the Rays. Second, Holland is as close to untouchable as the Rangers have. But, I could see a Kazmir for Michael Main, Wilfredo Boscan, and Jose Vallejo type of deal. Sure, that's a lot to give up for Kazmir, but lefties seem to pitch a bit better in Arlington, and the Rangers have the depth to pull that off.

Or, if they are looking for a major league ready middle infielder, switch Boscan for Joaquin Arias and Vallejo for a Richard Bleier or a Evan Reed or even a Robbie Ross.

Apr 10, 2009 07:38 AM
rating: 1
 
greensox

If you're trying to win a championship, trading Kazmir is exactly what you DON'T do. At some point, that's got to be what this game is all about. Retreating and retrenching is something the Pirates, not a contender, should do.
If you're trying to be #1 on the top 100 prospects list, it might be a good idea.

On a side note, the #11 team is desperate for pitching - imagine that.

Apr 10, 2009 07:48 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

It sends an odd kind of message about baseball in Tampa if the Rays were to trade their perceived ace in Kazmir merely one year after going to the World Series, especially when there is no overwhelming need to. It might make more baseball sense to cash in while his value is high, but in a community where they are trying to reaffirm the ownership's commitment to winning baseball (and pursuing a new stadium), trading Kazmir might be a bit damaging PR-Wise. This is the kind of move I'd make if I was playing OOTP or Baseball Mogul, though.

Apr 10, 2009 08:38 AM
rating: 2
 
Tuck
(667)

Good article, and an interesting thought.

But I think you overestimate the level of interest other teams would have in Kazmir, and what the Rays could get in return. Seems to me his imperfections are well known. The guy can't make it past the 6th, can't stay healthy, and doesn't have a build that suggests longevity. Even in an ostensibly healthy 2008, Kaz was unable to throw his normal slider.

Any team who would be interested must recognize that Kazmir is a big risk, and would offer a package that took that risk into account. Which puts the Rays in a spot where they would trade a talented if overrated young pitcher with a reasonable contract for something less than an optimal return.

Apr 10, 2009 08:51 AM
rating: 0
 
sgturner65

I think I read this same column in April 1961 about a 25 year old southpaw named Koufax. Now, I'm not sayin'...

Apr 10, 2009 09:31 AM
rating: 0
 
jman2050

Isn't it a bit disingenuous to look at Kazmir's body of work and declare that three pitchers with barely 5 starts worth of major league experience between them (one of which was drafted two years ago) can match or exceed that? And then make an argument about why trading a commodity as valuable as Kazmir would be a good idea based partially on that premise?

Sometimes I get the feeling that in the process of trying to raise the awareness of and understanding of the potential ability of prospects, some writers have swung the pendulum in the extreme opposite direction.

Apr 10, 2009 10:36 AM
rating: 1
 
lyonscon

I am not sure how Joe can say he knows for sure that David Price is at least as good as Kazmir is right now. He could be, but I don't see how it is a lock or anything.

I don't think we should go too far the other way on Kazmir now. The Rays are probably going to need him if they want to win a WS.

Apr 10, 2009 10:44 AM
rating: 0
 
RayDiPerna

Joe, the weaknesses you point out in this piece are the same ones the mainstream media has noticed, and I'm certain that if the MSM has noticed them, other teams have. If Mike Francesa can see it, others can too.

So I think you may be over-estimating the gap between his actual value and his perceived value.

Apr 10, 2009 14:35 PM
rating: 1
 
Nick Smith

"Without the ability to give a team 200 or more innings, no pitcher can be a #1 starter."

Pedro Martinez says hi.

Apr 10, 2009 15:23 PM
rating: 2
 
Adam Hobson

Pedro had five straight seasons of 200+ innings from 1996 to 2000, including a season of 241.1 innings in 1997. In 1995 he just missed 200 with 194.2 innings, and 1994 gets an asterisk of course with the strike and all. Martinez then had one injury-filled season in 2001, and came back by just missing 200 innings in both 2002 and 2003, but made at least 29 starts in each of them, while hitting 200 innings again in 2004 and 2005 before his career fell off a cliff. So in all, Pedro has 7 seasons of 200+ innings and another three seasons of 186.2+ innings. From the peak of his career from 1995 to 2005, Pedro failed to start at least 29 games or reach 186.2 innings only a single time.

Pedro also has 46 complete games through his career, including 20 through his age 25 season. Pedro through at least a single complete game every single year of his career from age 22 to 33. Kazmir has a single complete game for his entire career.

Pedro averaged 6.7 innings per game started over his career, Kazmir is at 5.8 innings per start. That's almost an entire innings more per start for Pedro. If we want to only talk about their early careers, Pedro racked up innings per start of 6.3, 6.5 and 6.6 in his age 22, 23 and 24 seasons respectively, before jumping to 7.8 innings per start in his age 25 season. Kazmir is at 6.0, 6.1 and 5.6 innings per start for his age 22, 23 and 24 seasons.

And lest we forget, Pedro was a much, much, much better pitcher than Kazmir was or is. Pedro's ERA+ for his career is at 154, Kazmir's at 125. at all.

Apr 10, 2009 16:19 PM
rating: 1
 
Nick Smith

PECOTA thinks Kazmir will be worth 120.2 VORP over the life of his contract, Holland 7.1 over the next seven years and Hellickson 38.6 over seven. Joe, I think you're forgetting just how much it means for a young pitcher to have proven himself at the major league level.

Apr 10, 2009 15:36 PM
rating: 0
 
smallflowers

As a Red Sox fan, I would be thrilled if they traded that monster away. For my money, as AL East adversaries, he and Doc are the guys you don't want to see them face. I consider owning Kazmir -- the Rays in MLB and me in Scoresheet -- to be a major commodity. Other than the fact that he reached the bigs a year early, has there been a better handled SP in the majors in recent memory? A ton of those missing innings have to do with the Rays being very cautious over the years, shutting him down early and bumping back his starts even though whatever was ailing him had passed. Put Kazmir on the Angels and let them ride him. He'd be a 215/3.25 guy easy. Kazmir has been putting up amazing numbers for his age and division.

Apr 15, 2009 08:16 AM
rating: 0
 
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