Today, people in Tampa are likely nodding their heads. Not because their club is 36-32 and within striking distance of first place in the division (well, maybe that too). No, they're nodding their heads today because the brilliance of a deal made nearly two years ago is proving to be a major success for the organization.
With the recent news that the Angels have released lefty Scott Kazmir, many people have been reflecting on the trade that initially sent Kazmir to Anaheim in the first place a couple years ago. The Angels took a major risk in taking on Kazmir, and this is just one of those examples that goes on the bad side of the docket when we discuss high-risk/high-reward investments. Sure, it ended up being an awful deal for the Angels, but as GM Tony Reagins said in a recent interview, "You make decisions in this business and live with the consequences."
In dealing Sean Rodriguez, Alexander Torres, Matt Sweeney and nearly $25 million for the 188 innings of replacement-quality pitching, trading for Kazmir proved to be an utter disaster for the Angels. And as you'd expect seeing things from the other side, this deal has been an astounding win for the Rays.
Rodriguez, a 26-year-old utility player, still has never matched the absolutely ridiculous Triple-A numbers he put up in 2008 and 2009, but he's provided enough pop for a quality defensive infielder to be a valuable role player on a contender like the Rays. He's the kind of cheap, versatile piece that allows teams to avoid spending $3-4 million on bench types a la Geoff Blum.
Sweeney, a 23-year-old third baseman-turned-first baseman, looked like a potential impact bat while smacking balls all around Advanced Single-A, but he's quickly soured his prospect stock with horrible numbers upon moving up to Double-A. His power is down, his strikeouts are way up, and in general he's looked totally lost at the plate. Sweeney was looking like a possible steal by the Rays for a few weeks there, but given his .178/.269/.283 line in 96 Double-A games so far in his career, he's essentially a non-prospect at this point.
Torres, though, will likely be viewed as the gem of the deal. A 23-year-old power lefty that's currently in Triple-A, Torres has been battling iffy command his entire pro career, but he's continued to thrive as he's climbed the minor league ladder. The command is still an issue, as he's walked 39 hitters in 63 innings this season, but he has quality raw stuff and continues to miss bats even as the competition has improved. He could end up being the kind of pitcher that the Angels hoped they were getting in Kazmir.
When you're talking about dealing prospects for young pitching, it shouldn't come to anyone's surprise that things can turn out a bit different than you'd expect. Prospects turn out different than you'd projected, and pitchers totally fall apart physically like we've seen from Kazmir. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you lose some. It's just pretty remarkable how often the Rays keep winning.