Trading prospects for Scott Kazmir seemed like a good gamble for the Angels in 2009. But the frail health of the pitcher caused an implosion that even pessimists would be forgiven for not imagining.
On Wednesday, pitcher Scott Kazmir was released by the Angels, five months after his 27th birthday. We have to take a short walk back to the summer of 2009 to truly assess the Angels acquisition of Scott Kazmir... it seemed like a good idea at the time.
The trade was a gamble on needing just a little more pitching to make it through the playoffs. The Kaz trade was an insurance policy. Turns out it was a $23.5 million insurance policy on winning the AL West in 2009. When General Manager Tony Reagins acquired Kazmir, the Angels already had the division pretty much in hand. Kazmir immediately skipped over Ervin Santana (then having one of his "off" years) and was at least equal to Joe Saunders for a place in the Angels rotation behind Jered Weaver and John Lackey.
Kaz started six regular season games in 2009. The Angels won the division by ten games. Insurance as a luxury.
Scott Kazmir's Fenway Park start in the 2009 ALDS was lousy and it was an offensive comeback late in the game that won it. Jonathan Papelbon was more integral to that Angels victory than Kaz.
In the 2009 ALCS, he lost Game 4 at home, allowing 5 runs in less than 5 innings. In Game 6, he gave a preview of what was to come in the next two seasons as he made a 4-2 Yankees lead into a 5-2 lead, allowing the final run by Angels pitching in 2009. LA of Anaheim fell two games short of the World Series.
2010 and beyond...
But the letdown of the 2009 postseason was not a dealbreaker in qualifying this trade as a bust. Reagins had done a "rental" trade with Mark Teixeira the season before and having a young possible ace reunited with his pitching coach Mike Butcher for three more seasons seemed like a masterstroke.
But it was not to be. Not even close. Kazmir's 2010 season was more disastrous than could have been imagined and the perfunctory long rehab allotted him in 2011 just a polite denouement to the inevitable release that came on Wednesday afternoon.
Tony Reagins traded solid prospects for a contract with youth and strikeouts going for it while salary and injury history went against it. The most spiteful Mariners fan could not have wished more negativity to emanate from one trade than seems to have come the Angels way... and the gift will only keep on giving as the three prospects the Angels sent to Tampa Bay emerge and establish themselves in the majors.
One can imagine the same 2009 division and playoff results with Matt Palmer or Santana pitching. The Angels could have ended up with a division title, a Boston exorcism and two games short of pennant, saved $23.5 million and still have three decent prospects playing in various organizational levels or used as parts of other trades.
But Reagins made a gamble that Kazmir could pitch lights out - and if he only had pitched two of his amazing starts in the ALCS, just to get to the World Series would have made it all worth it. But they didn't. Like many a dice toss in Vegas, the first two bets paid off, the big one didn't and all the money that followed shocked nobody else in the casino save the man tossing the dice. Reagins bought an expensive insurance policy on 2009 that was hedged with hope for two or possible three more seasons. Reagins and the Angels lost the gamble. Big Time.
At least former Angels GM Bill Stoneman's worst trade, Jim Edmonds for Adam Kennedy and Kent Bottenfield, paid intangible dividends that make it a pleasant digression in our walk down memory lane. Even if Matt Sweeney (batting .160 in 50 games so far in AA this year), Alex Torres (65 Ks in 63 IP this season in AAA) or Sean Rodriguez (95 OPS+ and superior utility defense for Tampa Bay this season) never produce at a high level, this trade will be the second worst of the Reagins administration. The Vernon Wells trade is already the worst. Of course, if Tyler Skaggs and Pat Corbin are winning Cy Young awards later this decade, the Kaz deal may fade into obscurity, Arte Moreno's heirs the only ones still sore over it all.