Victor Zambrano made quite an impact on the Tampa Bay Rays by being traded to the New York Mets. On his 42nd birthday, let us look back at his time in Tampa Bay.
Victor Zambrano had his moments of brilliance for the Tampa Bay Rays. He arrived on the scene as a 25 year old rookie in 2001 as a reliever, and posted a 6-2 record with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.091 WHiP. In his 51.1 innings, he struck out 58 batters and issued only 18 walks. Zambrano seemed as though he would be a weapon as a reliever, someone that the Rays could build their bullpen around.
Desperate for anything resembling a competent starter, the Rays Zambrano into the rotation over the final two months of the 2002 campaign. After a rough start to the year in the bullpen, he pitched relatively well as a starter, with a 4.27 ERA in his eleven starts. That performance led to his being placed in the rotation going forward, where he would become a fairly average arm.
Then, in 2004, along came the New York Mets. Desperate for an experienced starter to bolster the rotation down the stretch, they traded for the Rays righty. As he had been relatively decent, with a 9-7 record and a 4.43 ERA, it was understandable that teams were interested in his services. However, that hoped for postseason push never materialized for the Mets. Zambrano also hurt his arm, making just three starts for New York that year.
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To top off that ill fated deal, the Mets sent one of their top prospects to Tampa Bay. Scott Kazmir had been drafted in the first round in 2002, and entered the 2004 season ranked as the 12th best prospect in the game by Baseball America. Mets fans immediately hated the trade, feeling they gave up far too much for an average arm.
As it turned out, they were right. Kazmir became a star for the Rays, making two All Star Games and leading the league with 239 strikeouts in 2007. Ironically, although he made the All Star Game in the years surrounding that campaign, he was not an All Star that season.
Meanwhile, Zambrano had been allowed to leave as a free agent after 2006. Splitting that 2007 season between the Orioles and Blue Jays, he produced a miserable 10.17 ERA and a 2.348 WHiP. He spent the following year in the Rockies and Yankees minor league systems before heading to the Mexican League. Aside from a brief appearance in the Venezuelan Winter League in the 2012-13 season, his career was over after 2010.
Victor Zambrano may not have been a part of the Tampa Bay Rays World Series team, but he still made quite the contribution. By being just good enough, he was able to allow the Rays to bring in Scott Kazmir.