It didn't generate a great deal of attention, but the Angels waived Scott Kazmir yesterday, for the purpose of giving the prodigal lefty his unconditional release. And so completed the Rays' latest course of Baseball Management 101. Shoot, maybe it should be a 400-level course, the way the Rays run circles around other teams.
Consider exactly what Tampa Bay pulled off when it comes to Kazmir, who will always hold a unique place in Mets lore:
In 2004 - under the leadership of previous general manager Chuck Lamar, to be fair - Tampa Bay acquired Kazmir from the Mets in return for Bartolome Fortunato and Victor Zambrano.
This was a unique circumstance of paying low, even when there was no reason for the Mets to be selling low. Kazmir, the Mets' first-round selection of the 2002 amateur draft, was excelling in the minor leagues. But the Mets' talent evaluators, including major-league pitching coach Rick Peterson, didn't project Kazmir as a top talent. So away he went...
...over to the (then) Devil Rays, who proceeded to enjoy four outstanding seasons from him, 2005 through 2008. Kazmir put together a cumulative WAR of 17.4 during that juncture. Consider that the top-paid starting pitchers of those seasons - Mike Mussina (2.6 in '05, 4.1 in '06), Bartolo Colon (-0.9 in '07) and Johan Santana (6.4 in '08) -- totaled 12.2 WAR over those four years, for about $60 million more than what Tampa Bay cumulatively paid Kazmir (about $5 million).
Then, just as Kazmir was starting his decline in late 2009, but before the rest of baseball realized it, the Rays pulled the trigger, dealing Kazmir to the Angels.
Kazmir pitched very well for the Angels at the tail end of '09, but that was it. He was horrendous last year and no better this year, prompting the release even though the Angels owe him roughly $10 million . Meanwhile, Sean Rodriguez, one of the Angels the players gave up for Kazmir, is a valuable, super-utility player for Tampa Bay, all for the reasonable rate of $429,000. Pitcher Alexander Torres, pitching for the Rays' Triple-A affiliate Durham, is 23 years old and appears to miss bats with his pitches, although he also appears to miss the strike zone often.
Jon Heyman reports this morning that the Yankees will at least discuss bringing Kazmir aboard, given their need for lefty relief. There's nothing in Kazmir's recent splits to indicate he would be good at this job, yet if the Yankees took a flyer on him - I'd think it would be a "Head down to Tampa to try to staighten things out" deal, like with Carlos Silva - it would complete an ironic circle for Kazmir.
The Mets sold high on him, or at least they thought they were, and the Yankees would be buying low.
--I'm here at the Stadium now and will check in later - if not with a new post, then with an update on this one.
--UPDATE, 6:02 p.m.: The extra innings left me short on time, so...the Yankees won. Stop by tomorrow for the Friday 5.