Everyone who has been a Rays fan for a while knows about this steal of a trade. In 2004 the Rays acquired Scott Kazmir, who became the Rays ace for a few seasons before the emergence of James Shields, for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato. This was a huge deal for the Rays, getting a 20 year old starting pitcher on a team who’s best starter was Zambrano and his 4.43 ERA.
When this trade was made, we could tell this deal was a steal for the Rays. Kazmir was an impressive 20 year old, already blowing people away at Double-A. In four starts at Double-A before the trade, he got 2 wins and allowed only 5 runs in 26 innings. It was more of the same after the deal, making four starts and pitching 25 innings while allowing 4 runs. That was enough for the Rays to send Kazmir past Durham and up to the big leagues. Kazmir struggled a bit in his first season with the Rays, starting 7 games and collecting a 5.67 ERA.
It was in 2005 when Kazmir stepped into his own. At 21 Kazmir quickly became a young stud that many thought would anchor the Rays rotation for many years to come. He impressed in 2005, going 10-8 with a 3.77 ERA in his first full season at the Big League level. It was more of the same for Kaz over the next three seasons, collecting over 10 wins in each and winning 13 in 2007. Kaz played a big part in the Rays 2008 success, winning 12 games with a 3.49 ERA.
While he put up good numbers in 2008, things started to turn south for Kazmir. It all started with an injury in 2008 spring training. While he came back and pitched great, making the 2008 All-Star team, his second half fell off, going 5-3 with a 4.02 ERA. Like in 2008, Kaz began the 2009 season on the DL with an elbow injury. When he came back, he went 4-4 with a 7.69 ERA before hitting the DL. He came back and got the numbers down a bit, but was still struggling before his next trade to the Angels, which I will go into in my next post.
Victor Zambrano was the big piece that was sent to the Mets to get Kazmir. Zambrano was a decent Major League-level starter, which is obviously what the Mets were looking for. He did have some success for the Mets in 2004 and 2005, but struggled in 2006 in 5 starts. Zambrano was let go before the 2007 season, which would be his last in the Big Leagues. Bartolome Fortunato was a decent middle reliever, who appeared in 15 games for the Mets in 2004 and 2 in 2006.
Clearly, the Rays won this deal in a landslide, even if Kazmir fell off in the end of his tenure with the Rays. Then the Rays turned Kazmir into some pretty good players. The Kazmir legacy is still around in Tampa Bay through Sean Rodriguez, but I will go into that later.