Second chance at Kazmir?
In yesterday’s report, aside from the primary focus on Roy Halladay, I listed the names of Shawn Marcum, Zack Greinke, Matt Cain, Zach Duke, Edwin Jackson, Boof Bonser, and Brian Burres as young starting pitchers cited by our local beat writers as possible winter trade targets.
Set all those names aside, even Greinke’s, and consider another.
In November, when the then-23-year-old was headed toward his first arbitration deal, I wrote this: “Eric Hurley, Taylor Teagarden, and Tampa Bay’s choice of Joaquin Arias or Omar Poveda. The Rays won’t do it. Would you?”
In January, the Rays and Kazmir avoided arbitration by settling on a $3.785 million contract for 2008.
On May 14, with Tampa Bay shockingly clinging to a half-game lead over Boston atop the AL East, the club agreed with Kazmir on a three-year extension with a club option for a fourth season: $6 million in 2009, $8 million in 2010, $12 million in 2011, and $13.5 million in 2012 (or a $2.5 million buyout).
On May 26, I wrote this: “It may not be for a few years, but the Rangers could be in a position some day to do what they were almost able to do with Josh Beckett — use a deep farm system to come out ahead in an effort to get the best young pitcher (like Beckett, a Texan) available on the trade market. I want that guy here.
“There’s no question that if Texas can maintain the horizontal and vertical depth in prospects that it has right now, it will be able to compete with anyone when it comes to loading up for a blockbuster trade. For a guy like Kazmir.”
Think the season the Rays have had makes Kazmir untouchable?
Over the same four seasons that Kazmir is guaranteed $28.5 million — $39.5 million if the Rays pick up the 2012 option — James Shields is guaranteed just $10.25 million ($15.25 million if the Rays pick up his 2012 option). Tampa Bay can also control Shields in 2013 ($9 million option, $1.5 million buyout) and in 2014 ($12 million option, $1 million buyout).
The Rays control Matt Garza over those same four years before he’ll have the right to explore free agency. If he continues to pitch the way he has this season, he’ll probably earn close what Shields is contracted to earn over those four years.
Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine have had solid seasons, but even setting those two aside, the Rays have blue-chip starters David Price, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Jeremy Hellickson all at AA or higher, not to mention Jake McGee, who had Tommy John surgery two months ago but remains a frontline prospect.
And this may surprise you. Since Kazmir’s two dominant starts against Texas on May 26 and June 6, after which he stood at 6-1, 1.40 for the season, he’s had three quality starts in 13 times out, posting a 3-5, 4.37 mark in that span.
Even with this amazing season, and regardless of how it ends, is it possible that the Rays entertain the idea of moving Kazmir this winter? Unlikely (as is Toronto moving Halladay before he earns 10-5 rights about this time next year), but I’m not sure it can be ruled out.
Now, for the price. Stealing a line from the great Will Carroll: “Trading with the Rays is like buying something for the person who has everything.” They’re young, and with very few holes, now or in the foreseeable future. And they’re notoriously difficult to deal with.
But you can be sure that, unlike Kansas City with Greinke, or San Francisco with Cain, or Pittsburgh with Duke, the Rays will eliminate the Yankees and Red Sox from the list of calls to return if they do decide to shop Kazmir. There’s no chance Tampa Bay will trade the 24-year-old to either of the two teams they figure to battle with for playoff position for the next 100 years.
Elvis Andrus, Kasey Kiker, Andrew Laughter, and either Carlos Pimentel or Mitch Moreland.