After running through the particulars of the deal that sent Victor Zambrano to the Mets from the (then) Devil Rays and Scott Kazmir from the Mets to the Rays -- the six-year anniversary is a week from today -- Jeff Pearlman bends over pretty far backward while being charitable to (then) Mets GM Jim Duquette:
- Yes, Scott Kazmir has had a nice career. But nice is often misleading. Now in his seventh full season, Kazmir has never posted an ERA lower than 3.48, has never won more than 13 games and has only thrown one complete game -- in 2006. After beginning last season with an 8-7 record and 5.92 ERA for Tampa Bay, he was unceremoniously shipped to the Angels for Sean Rodriguez and two prospects.
Now, with his velocity down, his once-potent slider nonexistent and his ERA a major league-worst 6.92, Kazmir has been placed on the disabled list by an organization perplexed and befuddled by a should-be ace. He recently made the worst start in the 49-year history of the Angels, permitting 13 earned runs over five innings against Oakland. "Looking at video, I can't even tell if that's me out there," Kazmir recently told ESPN. "It's getting a little out of control."
In other words, the man has broken down. He will likely never be Ron Guidry or, for that matter, the Scott Kazmir of four years ago.
This doesn't mean Jim Duquette was right. The trade was unambiguously dumb and irrational and unsophisticated. But after six years of being reminded of the blunder, it's time to let him move on.
The baseball landscape is one littered with boneheaded swaps -- many worse than Kazmir for Zambrano.
Well, OK. We can move on. But not before mentioning that in his four good years with Tampa Bay, Kazmir went 45-34 with a 3.51 ERA, pitched in a couple of All-Star Games, and generated nearly $60 million in value for the Rays (while earning only $5 million in salary). In a sense, trading Kazmir for Zambrano cost the Mets $55 million.
Oh, except it was probably a lot more than that. In 2007 the Mets finished one game behind the first-place Phillies. In 2008 they finished three games behind the first-place Phillies. In 2006, their fourth starter in October was Steve Trachsel, who started twice and gave up seven runs in four-plus innings. It's not hard to imagine the Mets generating a great deal more income with Kazmir, because it's not hard to imagine them winning significantly more postseason games in those three years than they actually won.
Yeah, Kazmir now seems to have broken down. But for four years he was both good and cheap, which means he was incredibly valuable. Also, everybody thought Duquette was nuts at the time of the deal. Most trades are fairly well balanced; if they seem lopsided, it's not until months (or years) later, and mostly due to luck or factors that just couldn't have been reasonably predicted.
But this wasn't one of those trades. This was a bad deal from day one, and everybody knew it except the Mets.