Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tricks of the Trade

An hour or so ago, Orioles traded Miguel Tejada to the Houston Astros for 5 players. More on them later.

First, I'd like to celebrate Tejada's time in Baltimore. He was perhaps the greatest free agent signing the Orioles have ever made. In 2004, he arguably had the best offensive season an Oriole player has ever had, knocking in 150 RBI (a club record).

It's a shame the Orioles never followed up Tejada's signing with anything else that helped turn the O's into a contender, because Tejada would have been the perfect centerpiece on a winning team.

He's energetic, passionate, gets along with everyone, and loves the game. He was at one time, one of baseball's on-field ambassadors. However, when the Orioles fell back into their usual ways of losing, Tejada became frustrated and it showed. He failed to run out ground balls and demanded to be traded. His alleged involvement with steroids didn't help either. But in short, Tejada had a very good career in Baltimore, even though it has been short-lived. And for that, I thank Miguel and wish him the best in Houston.

Now, back to the trade.

Andy MacPhail promised changes when he was hired and this is the first hard evidence we have of him following through on his word. On the surface, this trade could be somewhat of a disappointment, as it appears to be quantity over quality. Especially when you consider some of the rumors that had "can't miss" prospects coming back to Baltimore in a Tejada trade.

But we can never really be sure who was on the table in a trade for Tejada. Rumors are what they are, rumors. But what we can look at is who we got back in this trade, which is what we will do right now.

Troy Patton is a 22 year old LHP who dominated in the MiL, but people question his ability to log 180+ innings as he has never pitched more than 151 innings in his career. At any rate, he is the most promising piece of the deal. He is young and MLB ready, as he logged 12 innings in Houston last season.

Dennis Sarfate is a 26 year old RHP bullpen arm. He throws hard and could fill in as closer until Chris Ray is healthy again. He's only logged 17 innings at the MLB level, and walks a lot of people, but his career 3.67 MiL ERA is promising.

Luke Scott is a 29 LH OF. He's essentially Jay Gibbons. He slugged a lot in the MiL, and in his 668 AB at the MLB level (a little more than a 162 game season), he's totaled 28 HR, 105 RBI and an .882 OPS. At 29 (30 next June) Scott doesn't factor into the Orioles rebuilding plans. If the Orioles keep him, Scott could be a stop gap in LF until hot prospect Nolan Reimold arrives, and he is head and shoulders better than Payton, but his best value to the Orioles should be in another trade.

Michael Costanzo is a 24 year old LH 3B. He's a little old for AA ball, which is where he's topped out, but his 27 HR and .858 OPS there in 2007 sounds like he could be ready for the MLB in 2008. At any rate, he'll challenge Mora (if he's still here in '08) and Scott Moore for 3B, but like Moore, Costanzo strikes out a ton.

Rounding out the bunch, Matt Albers is a 25 year old RHP. In 125 IP in Houston over the last 2 years, he's had a scary 5.87 ERA and control problems. In his MiL career, he's been pretty accurate with nearly a 3 to 1 K/BB rate and a decent 3.62 ERA. At present, Albers projects to be a bullpen arm, and if his control improves, perhaps a back end rotation starter.

Patton, Sarfate and Costonzo appear are the best candidates to become key players for the Orioles in the future. None of them are sure things, but their numbers are promising. Scott should be traded to a contender who could use him now, and Albers is an extra arm for the pen.

While some people would have hoped for a better return for Tejada, perhaps just one sure fire prospect (Brandon Wood of the Angels or Felix Pie of the Cubs), at least there are a few players in this bunch who could turn out to be solid MLB players. And that is where quantity over quality helps. If Wood or Pie is a bust, the Tejada trade is a bust. At least we have 5 shots to make this trade mean something other than a salary dump, as Tejada was owed $26 million over the next 2 years.

So at first look, it appears that the Orioles' first trade of the offseason is a success. But as with most trades, time will tell.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I always wonder what could've been from that 2003-04 off-season.

We damn near had Vlad Guerrero, who won the MVP in 2004 and finished in the top three in voting three of the next four years. Javy Lopez was never going to duplicate what he did in 2003, but he had a good 2004. If he had been able to stay healthy, who knows.

Missing out on Vlad was huge. Putting Tejada and Vlad in the same line-up and managing to land three top free agents that off-season would've probably changed a lot.