Friday August 28th, 2009

The Tampa Bay Rays were likely going to shop Scott Kazmir this winter, so his trade to the Los Angeles Angels is simply a matter of moving sooner rather than later, especially because Kazmir has pitched to an ERA near 6.00 this year. The trade gets the Rays out from under almost $25 million due a pitcher showing continued signs of regression.

Kazmir, 25, is still young, younger even than Cole Hamels, but his strikeout rate (career-low 7.4 per nine innings) and velocity on his fastball and slider have been dropping.

He was due $8 million next year, $12 million in 2011 and a $2.5 million buyout after that 2011 season. Toss in the $1.7 million owed him for the rest of this year, and an $800,000 trade assignment bonus, and the Angels are on the hook for about $25 million for Kazmir, money the Rays might be able to use to keep Carl Crawford around.

The Rays signed Kazmir to his contract extension only 15 months ago, and now he follows Jason Hammel and Edwin Jackson as young starting pitchers the Rays have traded in just the past nine months.

So what's in it for the Angels? Kazmir is an immediate upgrade over rookie Trevor Bell in the rotation. He also has good career numbers against potential playoff teams Boston (8-7, 3.59), New York (6-4, 2.53) and Texas (5-1, 2.28). He also gives them protection against the possibility of John Lackey leaving as a free agent after this season.

But ask yourself this: Is Kazmir guaranteed to start a playoff game for the Angels? To start one of the first three games of a Division Series, Kazmir would have to get the ball before two of the following: Lackey, Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana.

At $25 million over little more than two years, Kazmir is a risk the Angels can afford more than the Rays.

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