Scott Kazmir didn't see it coming.
The left-hander was traded from the Tampa Bay Rays to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday night, a big move for the AL West leaders that gives their unsteady rotation a major boost.
The Angels landed Kazmir, a two-time All-Star, for two minor leaguers and a player to be named. He was 8-7 with a 5.92 ERA this season for the defending AL champion Rays.
"This is a surprise. I had heard rumors before, but it's hard to believe that it is now official," Kazmir said after Tampa Bay's 6-2 loss at Detroit. "It's a disappointment because of all the relationships I've built in the organization and the city, but you can't control the business side of the game."
Tampa Bay receives left-hander Alex Torres and third baseman Matt Sweeney in the deal.
"We're very excited about the player that we can't name yet, but also about the other two," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The lefty has a great arm, and Sweeney is one of the best hitters in the minors."
Looking to lock up their third straight division title, the Angels began the night four games ahead of second-place Texas. Tampa Bay was 3 1/2 out in the wild-card race.
Kazmir will become the Angels' 14th starting pitcher this year, most in the majors. He was 4-1 with a 4.38 ERA over his last six starts for Tampa Bay.
"He has the potential to be a No. 1 starter, just like anyone on our staff does," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said after his team's 11-7 victory over Oakland.
Kazmir's previous outing was Wednesday at Toronto, where he struck out 10 while allowing a run and four hits over six innings in a no-decision.
"We're not going to make moves just to make moves. We search for opportunities that make sense for us, not only in the short term but in the long term," Angels general manager Tony Reagins said. "We had followed him for the last couple of weeks. Most recently, we had a scout in Toronto who saw Scott pitch, and he obviously threw the ball very well. So we just felt it made sense for us to make the move right now."
Scioscia said Kazmir will make his Angels debut Tuesday or Wednesday in Seattle.
"I'm excited," center fielder Torii Hunter said. "I definitely think Kazmir's going to help the rotation out a whole lot. I'm glad I don't have to face him now."
Because he was dealt before Aug. 31, Kazmir is eligible for postseason play with Los Angeles. He had to pass through waivers to be traded at this point in the season.
"I'm going to a quality organization that is in the race every year," said Kazmir, who started Games 1 and 5 of last year's World Series against Philadelphia. "That's something to look forward to, but I don't think it will hit me until I fly out there tomorrow."
The move was somewhat surprising because the 25-year-old Kazmir was a key part of a talented young core that helped Tampa Bay go from perennial losers to pennant winners last year. But the trade provides salary relief for the cost-conscious Rays, who have several important budget decisions coming up.
"I don't know what to say, because he's been pitching well," Rays teammate Carl Crawford said. "It surprises me to see Kaz go, because of everything he's meant to the organization."
Kazmir is earning $6 million this season in the first year of a $28.5 million, three-year deal he agreed to in May 2008. He is owed $8 million next season and $12 million in 2010, and his contract contains a $13.5 million club option for 2012 with a $2.5 million buyout.
"It's important because we'll have stability, knowing that we'll have Scott in the fold for this year and two more, plus the option year," Reagins said. "Scott's 25 and still in the prime of his career, so we think he's going to improve."
Kazmir led the AL with 239 strikeouts in 2007 but has been slowed by injuries during his career.
All season, Los Angeles has been piecing together a rotation beset by injuries to John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Kelvim Escobar, and the tragic death of Nick Adenhart. The Angels began the day ranked 12th out of 14 AL teams with a 4.87 ERA.
Lackey can become a free agent after the season.
"Scott's situation is exclusive of anything we're doing in the future," Reagins said. "The way the pitching market is out there now and the pitchers that are available in the next few years, this made a lot of sense for us _ to be able to get a quality pitcher in the fold right now."
Just before Reagins spoke with reporters, Angels rookie Trevor Bell was lifted from the game after giving up five runs and seven hits over 2 2-3 innings.
Kazmir was selected in the first round of the 2002 draft by the New York Mets, then traded to Tampa Bay in 2004 while he was still in the minors. He is the club's career leader in wins, strikeouts, starts and innings pitched.
"It's very easy to say that this trade will hurt our chances, given how Scott has pitched his last few starts," Maddon said. "But we've got guys in the minors that we really like and that we think can help us."
The 21-year-old Sweeney batted .299 with nine homers and 44 RBIs in 58 games this season at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. He strained his left hip in early June and spent two months on the disabled list.
Torres, also 21, is a combined 13-4 with a 2.75 ERA in 26 games (24 starts) at Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Arkansas. He began the season in A-ball, going 10-3 with a 2.74 ERA and 124 strikeouts in 21 appearances. He was promoted to Arkansas on Aug. 1, and was 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in five starts.
"There were players that obviously were moved in this deal that they saw value in and they liked _ and we liked," Reagins said. "We think that we gave up two talented players, and a third to come. So this was not a basic salary dump."