DETROIT — Like or hate the Scott Kazmir trade, there are two things that stand out: the boldness and the timing.
Immersed in a battle to run down the Red Sox for the AL wild card, it would seem the worst possible time to trade a key member of the rotation, leaving the Rays potentially with three rookies among their starting five in September and creating the impression they were surrendering.
But in a way, the timing couldn't have been better.
If the Rays had decided — which they apparently had — that Kazmir wasn't going to be worth the $22.5 million future investment they had in him, they needed, as a low-revenue club, to find a way out.
Kazmir, after struggling much of the season, created an escape window by pitching extremely well his past couple of times out. The Angels emerged as perfect partners, motivated enough in the heat of their own battle to take on the contract and to give back three quality prospects.
A few months ago, the Rays couldn't get nearly as good a deal, or any deal, for Kazmir. (And, as manager Joe Maddon pointed out, no one would have criticized them for trading him then if they had.) A few months from now, they might have had more teams interested but not nearly as motivated during the offseason. And that's without knowing if Kazmir would continue to pitch well or revert to earlier form.
It would have been easier to not make the deal, and the Rays were bold to do so. Maybe not as much as in trading Delmon Young, who at the time was considered to be a future long-term All-Star (and that worked out pretty well), but bold nonetheless. Apart from Fred McGriff at the end of his career, Kazmir may be the biggest name player the Rays have traded, ahead of Roberto Hernandez and Aubrey Huff.
Still, it looked to the Rays like a deal they had to make. Unlike a position player such as, say, Carl Crawford, who was going to have an impact in every game the rest of the season, Kazmir was going to make six or seven more starts. So ultimately the question was how much better would — might? — Kazmir be over those games than Wade Davis or Andy Sonnanstine, and how much difference that would make in a race they need to play better overall to win.
Their conclusion, obviously, was not much. And certainly not more than $22 million worth.