Saturday, September 5, 2009

(Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

By David Saltzer - Columnist

The Angels got Scott Kazmir and the Rays got Sean Rodriguez, Matt Sweeney and Alex Torres. Many fans have been a bit upset at the loss of Sean Rodriguez, a versatile, powerful, and speedy MIFer who can also play the OF. They considered this price a bit too steep to pay.

Looking at the Kazmir trade, I’m excited by it—even with giving up Rodriguez (especially seeing how he pitched in his first start). Unlike some pundits and fans, I’m not going to create a list of possibilities that need to occur in order to call the trade “successful.” Trades aren’t made with hindsight; they are made at the time with the information on-hand.

At the time of the trade, the Angels had a 4.5 game lead over a surging Texas team (the lead has now shrunk to 3.5 games). Unlike past seasons, the Rangers didn’t appear to be fading. The Angels’ starting rotation was stretched beyond its ability to perform (with Saunders on the DL and Bell and O’Sullivan no longer getting the job done). With at least 6 starts left for our 5th starter, and 7 head-to-head games against the Rangers, the Angels’ chances of making the post-season were in serious doubt without a serious upgrade to their starting rotation.

In Kazmir, the Angels received a top-end pitcher who is signed to a reasonable contract over the next two years. In his career, Kazmir an 8-7 record against Boston with a career 3.59 ERA against them. Additionally, against the Yankees, Kazmir has a 6-4 lifetime record with a 2.53 ERA. Against both teams, he has struck out more than 1 batter per inning. That will be useful if we end up facing one or both teams again this year in the post season.

In making this trade, the Angels did not rob from their future by trading key prospects to get the deal done. Looking at the Angels’ organization as a whole, the players that were traded were all essentially blocked on their way to the majors and did not figure significantly into the Angels’ long-term plans.

In the case of Matt Sweeney, he was expendable because he was blocked by both Chone Figgins and Brandon Wood. While he has a potent bat, he was still at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga, and was coming off another injured year. He was at least 2 years away, and 2 players down on the depth chart.

As for Alex Torres, he too would have to leapfrog over Trevor Reckling (a comparable lefty with probably a higher ceiling) as well as Sean O’Sullivan and Trevor Bell. And, this doesn’t even include all the current starters in our rotation as well as Scott Kazmir—the object of the trade. Like Sweeney, Torres was at least 2 years away and many players down on the depth chart.

The only player that the Angels traded who might have played a role next year was Sean Rodriguez. With his ability to play both MIF positions and the OF, Rodriguez could have been a bench player for the team. But, with GMJr as the 4th OFer, and Maicer Izturis as the MIF backup, the opportunities for him to get any serious playing time were limited.

Meanwhile, behind him, the Angels have 2 very talented MIFers in development: Alexi Amarista, who posted a 313/385/464 line with 38 SBs at Cedar Rapids and Jean Segura, who posted a 346/421/512 line with 11 SBs. By the time Rodriguez would have an open shot to challenge for a starting job with the Angels, he would be challenged himself by one or both of these players.

After so many years of not making a trade to bolster the team, it’s good to see Tony Reagins making another bold move to improve the team for both now and the future. If anything, this trade should be considered a “win-win-win” trade. The Angels got a quality starter who can help them through the stretch drive and beyond. That is a win for them. The Rays got 3 talented prospects and the salary relief they needed to keep their core players intact. That is a win for them. And, Rodriguez, Sweeney, and Torres all got a shot in an organization where their paths to the majors aren’t as blocked. That is a “win” for them.
Love to hear what you think!


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