07/31/11 6:44 PM ET
O's feeling good about deals, future
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
Baltimore traded away a pair of players in reliever Koji Uehara and first baseman Derrek Lee on Saturday, netting two Major League-ready guys -- first baseman Chris Davis and pitcher Tommy Hunter from Texas for Uehara -- as well as Pirates Minor Leaguer Aaron Baker for Lee in a whirlwind series of events completed in several hours.
"There was no shortage of interest in a variety of [our] guys," said president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail, who decided early on that the team's younger core players, such as Adam Jones, weren't up for sale despite their attractiveness on the open market.
MacPhail said he also got several inquiries about Davis and Hunter once it became clear the pair of Rangers were headed to the Orioles, an interest level that he called "gratifying" in reinforcing what the organization hopes will be two important pieces moving forward.
"It's a pretty good mathematical equation: Two gains to be had," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said of the trade which shipped Uehara and cash to Texas for Davis and Hunter. "I'm not going to say we would or wouldn't have had Derrek back next year, but you have two young players who are under control, who you kind of know you can keep in the fold and kind of fit in to what we are trying to do. They are younger than some of the players that are still trying to establish themselves here. So, there's quite an upside on them. ... I like both their makeup. Both get-after guys."
Each just 25 years old, Davis and Hunter fill two of the Orioles' biggest needs, adding a superb defender at the corner infield spot and an effective starter to help alleviate some of the rotation issues caused by a frustratingly erratic young pitching corps.
A native of Texas, Davis was the Rangers' fifth-round pick in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and, after a relatively quick ascent through the Minors, made his Major League debut in 2008, hitting .285 with 17 homers, 55 RBIs and a .549 slugging percentage. But he has struggled to regain that level, and has been sent down and called up six times since serving as the Rangers' Opening Day first baseman in 2009.
"He's going to be good," Hunter said of Davis, whom he got to watch light up Minor League pitching while rehabbing a right groin strain earlier this year. "He definitely has the capability to be a superstar if he gets the chance [to play every day]."
Hunter will also have a plum chance in Baltimore, where he is expected to be inserted into the rotation to help stabilize a group headed by Jeremy Guthrie. A 13-game winner as a starter for the Rangers last year, Hunter strained his right groin at the end of Spring Training this year, missed three months and was never able to regain his spot a crowded rotation, prompting the Rangers to use him in middle relief.
"Baltimore was interested in acquiring a controllable young starter, and Tommy has shown he can get the job done," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said of Hunter, who recorded a 3.73 ERA in 22 starts last season. "Except for a couple of minor injuries, he has shown he can get the job done. He's durable, he throws strikes and has a good makeup."
Hunter -- who is expected to meet the team in Kansas City -- could also help take some of the pressure off Guthrie, who was one of the team's best trade chips, but his value in Baltimore ultimately outweighed other offers.
"One of the elements for us to consider [when talking about] moving a talent like Jeremy was we would have to feel like we were getting some pitching back, and that's a tall order for clubs," MacPhail said. "They are reluctant to part with it. ... We probably could have gotten reasonable talent back, but not as much back in the pitching category that we needed to have to satisfy us."
While Guthrie will remain an Oriole until at least the end of the season, the team's roster situation could still change, with Michael Gonzalez and Vladimir Guerrero two candidates who could have a change of address. Now that the non-waiver Trade Deadline has passed, deals involving players on the 40-man roster cannot be made unless the players already have cleared waivers. In other words, the player must be offered to the other teams in reverse order of the standings, and if he is claimed by one of the teams, he cannot be traded. The club that placed the player on waivers can either withdraw the request and keep the player, or let the player go to the claiming team, which would then have the rights to the player.
There was some thought the Orioles would place Lee on waivers after the Deadline, but the acquisition of Davis --and Pittsburgh's need for a veteran presence and bat -- gave the two sides reason to make the swap. Drafted in the 11th round in 2009, Baker hit .282 with 15 homers and 73 RBIs in 103 games for Class A Bradenton this season, and will be assigned to the Orioles' Class A affiliate in Frederick.
"Pittsburgh is getting a good man, a good person, and a guy that's starting to play pretty well," Showalter said of the well-liked Lee, whose departure was bittersweet. "So it's a good move for them and a good move for us. We like the guy we got back."
Brittany Ghiroli is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, Britt's Bird Watch, and follow her on Twitter @britt_ghiroli. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.