Matthew Cerrone, Lead Writer
Tonight in Cleveland, Scott Kazmir will face the Mets for the first time in his career.
Zack Wheeler, who will start for the Mets, was 14 years old when Kazmir was traded with Jose Diaz to the Rays for Victor Zambrano and Bartolome Fortunato.
Kazmir is 7-7 with a 4.36 ERA in 24 starts for the Indians this season. He could earn up to $2.75 million, one year after being out of baseball and pitching in the Independent League.
According to ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin, “Wheeler had no idea Kazmir ever was a top Mets prospect.”
Nevertheless, I anticipate people trying to shoe-horn a story out of this, pitting Wheeler (the current phenom) against Kazmir (the old phenom), despite neither player likely caring about their status, or former status, and the artificial context of their relationship.
“It just feels like so long ago. I’m just concentrating on what I have to do and not really worried about too much of the significance of the game,” Kazmir told Rubin. “It just seems like I’ve already turned the page.”
The take-away here is not Kazmir vs. Wheeler, it’s not even the return of Kazmir, since so much has happened in the time that deal went down. Instead, the important thing to think about, when watching these two guys on the mound, is the delicate nature of a “Pitching Prospect.”
“There is no such thing as a pitching prospect,” baseball people like to say, often using the shorter TINSTAAPP.
This is not totally true, of course. Roger Clemens, Roy Halladay, Justin Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Tim Lincecum and David Price, among countless others, have all been highly touted minor leaguers. However, so was Luke Hochevar, Clint Everts, Todd Van Poppel and Ben McDonald, not to mention Kazmir, as well as Jason Isringhausen and Bill Pulsipher, and a parade of pitchers people got pumped up about and, because of them, probably got fired.
And that’s the point, you never really know how a pitcher will translate to the big leagues, and anything can happen — from burn out, to injury — along the way.
This is why I flip-flop so much when asked by people if I would trade Rafeal Montero or Noah Syndgeraard, or even Wheeler. I know Sandy Alderson can’t acquire a bat in trade for low-level minor leaguers at a time when he desperately needs another big hitter, but I also know TINSTAAPP. I remember Kazmir. I remember Pulse. I know what it feels like to be so excited about a teenage phenom who lights up radar guns and dazzles scouts, only to see the hype dissipate as quickly as it emerged.
I remember being proud as a Mets fan when Matt Harvey took the mound at the All-Star Game, and I remember how bad I felt for him a few months later when he addressed the media following news of the ligament tear in his elbow. It can come and go… so fast… It’s understandable why Alderson might cling to every single minor league pitcher he has, regardless of status and value in trade — especially in an era when free-agent pitching is so expensive.
Today, I’m on the side of spending all free-agent dollars on as many position players as possible and keeping every young arm. Tomorrow, I may feel differently. Thanks, Kazmir.