The Baltimore Orioles had a very busy day yesterday; unfortunately it didn’t translate to success on the field given that they were swept in a doubleheader by the Yankees. (The O’s lost the first game 8-3, and the second in embarassing fashion, 17-3.) That aside, between the first and second games the Orioles traded reliever Koji Uehara (and $2 million) to the Texas Rangers in return for two 25-year old prospects who have seen success at the big league level:
- Chris Davis – Davis, a Texas native, was drafted by the Rangers in 2006 and it only took him two years to reach the big leagues. While he was the Rangers’ opening day first baseman in 2009, he’s somewhat struggled to stay in the big leagues. At triple-A Round Rock this year, Davis was hitting .368 with 24 HR’s and 66 RBI (over 48 games).
- Tommy Hunter – Although he’s pitched both as a starter and in relief, Tommy Hunter says he’s a starting pitcher. He may well be right because the Orioles are in desperate need of one. Hunter has been used primarily as a middle reliever given that he strained his groin coming out of spring training and spent three months on the DL. When he returned Texas just didn’t have a rotation spot for him. He won 13 games for the Rangers last season as a starter, and has gone 1-1 with a 2.93 ERA in relief this season. Oriole pitching coach Rick Adair was also Hunter’s pitching coach at one time in the minor leagues.
The Rangers are in Toronto playing a series with the Blue Jays, and both Hunter and Davis are expected to be at Yankee Stadium today for the Orioles’ series finale against the Yankees. Hunter has thrown 6 2/3 innings over the past seven days so his availability might be in question for today’s game. However Davis might well make his Oriole debut as the Orioles’ everyday first baseman this afternoon undeder the blonde sunshine of the Bronx. Obviously we’ll know for sure once manager Buck Showalter releases his lineup to the media.)
Ironically, that trade in a way set up the second one. Many people raised their eyebrows when Derrek Lee was removed from the first game towards the end because it could have potentially signaled that Lee was on the move. My personal opinion was that the opposite was true; the Orioles probably lifted him because they wanted him to be fresh for the nightcap. In fact, common sense told me that a team wouldn’t trade a player between games in a doubleheader because it would in effect short the bench for the second game. (That is of course unless the trade partner was the team they were playing…) Go figure, the joke was on me because Lee was in fact on the move. He was in uniform and available to play in the second game last night, but afterwards he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for single-A first baseman Aaron Baker (and cash). Baker, who will be asigned to the Frederick Keys, was hitting .285 with 15 HR’s and 72 RBI.
The challenge that the Orioles now have is to make these trades work out properly. Baker is a prospect who will linger in the minors for awhile. However as I said above Hunter and Davis are expected to join the team today in New York. I suppose what I mean is that a lot of things that the Orioles touch seems to turn to stone. The signings of Lee and Guerrero were good moves at the time, yet they didn’t work out so well. It seems that the entire calvary of young pitchers are all struggling at once. The Orioles need to make sure that these guys (Hunter and Davis) don’t get indoctornated into a bad situation right off the bat. So for the sake of the future perhaps they should forget that yesterday happened and try their best to have an upbeat clubhouse this morning before the game in order to welcome these two guys to the team. By all accounts, the Orioles seemed to have made out like bandits in this trade, because these are two solid players that could have an immediate impact where the Orioles need it the most. However if they get into the “business as usual, nothing to see here” doldrum in which the Orioles typically find themselves, their skills might atrophize. As for Koji Uehara, he was very emotional in his MASN interview before leaving for Toronto last night. I tip my cap to him, as he was a solid (but oft-injured) reliever for the O’s. He genuinely seemed to want to stay with the Orioles, however he also seemed wary of the fact that this is a business and so forth. One other thing about the trade, both Hunter and Davis seemed very excited about being traded to the Orioles. They see it as an opprotunity to play everyday and to be a part of a young team that is hopefully coming together for years to come.