We recently read an article by the great Joe Sheehan regarding, as you may have guessed, whether or not the Rays should trade their nominal ace, Scott Kazmir. Sheehan raises a lot of great points in his article -which suggests that they should trade him - but this is the internet, and so of course we disagree. Kazmir has been a huge name ever since the trade; it seems like even today you could stop any random person on the street, and they would shake their head at the idiocy of Jim Duquette - Kazmir for Kris "Anna" Benson and the wrong Zambrano? (By the way, the ESPN article about the trade is pretty funny to read after the fact. Check it out.)
But while Kazmir has control and injury issues - he once led the league in batters walked, with 100, and has only tossed 200 frames once in his career - he's got great strikeout stuff, K'ing 9.7 per 9 over his career. If he manages to keep his WHIP in the 1.2's, which isn't too unlikely given that he's still just 25 (!), he's ace material. There was a lot of hype to live up to, but what more could you want from the kid? Yeah, he's an injury risk, but there aren't a lot of 25 year olds who double as seasoned vets, nor a lot of guys who have the kind of stuff he does. Oh, and he's lefthanded.
Anyway, to quote Richard from Tommy Boy (timely reference!), you hang onto a car this cherry. Yes, the Rays have plenty of great pitching in the rotation and the minors are bursting at the seams with ultra-talented prospects, but in the AL East, you need to be stocked like they are to win. Furthermore, the biggest areas where they could stand to improve - 2nd base, RF, bullpen - aren't spots where Kazmir could reasonably bring in an impact player. We don't mean that there's not talent there, or that Kazmir isn't a good return, just that the situation isn't right. In our minds, this has to be a deal where both teams are contenders looking to get better; you don't take on an ace with a multiyear contract unless you're ready to win, and you don't go from a World Series berth to a fire sale unless you're the Marlins. That in mind, let's take a look at some possible fits.
To the Astros for Hunter Pence. Wait, what was that about contenders? Yeah, this one's sort of silly, but we're just playing around. There's no real reason for this deal to happen, since Pence is under team control for 3 years after this one, and is a building block for the 'Stros. But just in terms of a team that needs pitching and a team that could use a right fielder, the fit is there.
To the Cardinals for Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick jacked 30 HRs last year, but he also turns 30 this year. He could fit in the middle of the Rays lineup, but for how long? If the goal is to contend now, which they do with or without Ludwick, that's fine, but Desmond Jennings and Fernando Perez had better hurry up and get big-league ready if the Rays want any stability there.
To the Marlins for Dan Uggla. Uggla's got a 30-homer bat and would remove Akinori Iwamura's weak stick from the lineup. But this isn't 1997 - we don't see the Marlins taking on any players with contracts like the one Kazmir's got.
To the Orioles for Brian Roberts. Another unlikely fit; Roberts just signed a contract extension after spending the entire '07 offseason wondering which uniform he'd be wearing the next season. O's owner Peter Angelos loves Roberts, making it even more unlikely that he's going anywhere, and you'd have to consider whether or not the Rays would want to trade Kazmir within the division.
To the Reds for Brandon Phillips. We could see this happening. The Reds aren't far away from contending in the NL Central, but this would mean they'd have to give up on Homer Bailey except as a spot starter. That said, a Kazmir-Harang-Volquez-Arroyo-Cueto rotation would be the best in the division and make them a playoff contender immediately.
To the Brewers for Corey Hart. The 20-20 machine is also a rangy outfielder just entering his prime. He's under team control for 3 years after this season, too. The problem we see with this one is the Brewers...they're just good enough to at least have a shot at contention, but just bad enough to not ship out their players.
We like him going to the Reds because we think the Rays would rather have a second baseman than an outfielder. With Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Matt Joyce, Desmond Jennings, and Fernando Perez, the Rays' outfield is a crowded unit that doesn't need an extra body. Replacing Iwamura, who's no great shakes with the glove or the bat, would be much more beneficial. Also, we think the Reds would have to include an arm with the deal. We don't really have a feel for how Kazmir is valued in the trade market, so we're doing some real guessing, but we're gonna go with Homer Bailey. We think that the Reds may have soured on him by now, and that his value isn't real high. If we're way off on that, though, which is entirely likely, maybe Nick Masset, or a vet bullpen arm like Arthur Rhodes or Bill Bray would do the job. Because AAA arms like Bray have a lot of value.
ANYWAY, here's what our teams would look like after this deal:
CF B.J. Upton CF Willy Taveras
LF Carl Crawford 3B Edwin Encarnacion
3B Evan Longoria 1B Joey Votto
DH Pat Burrell RF Jay Bruce
1B Carlos Pena LF Chris Dickerson
2B Brandon Phillips SS Alex Gonzalez
RF Gabe Gross C Ramon Hernandez
C Dioner Navarro 2B Danny Richar
SS Jason Bartlett
RHP James Shields LHP Scott Kazmir
RHP Matt Garza RHP Aaron Harang
LHP Andy Sonnanstine RHP Edinson Volquez
LHP David Price RHP Bronson Arroyo
RHP Wade Davis/Jeff Niemann/Homer Bailey RHP Johnny Cueto
Thoughts, questions, heated accusations, and personal confessions are welcomed in the comments.