Friday, July 20, 2007

Orioles out-think themselves when it comes to trading

Over the past few months, the Orioles have frequently been mentioned as one of the main teams interested in Rangers first baseman Mark Teixeira. Teixeira has also expressed his own interest in playing for the Orioles, mainly because he was born in Annapolis, MD. The addition of Teixeira to play first for the O's seems like a perfect and logical choice for the organization.

As of this moment, though, the Orioles would have to trade for Teixeira. He does not become a free agent until after the 2008 season. To make the situation more difficult, several other teams, mainly contenders such as the Braves, Dodgers, Angels, and Yankees, to name a few, have expressed their desire to obtain the power hitting Teixeira.

I don't believe that Teixeira will be traded this year unless one of these teams, or possibly another team, completely overwhelms the Rangers with a large package of solid prospects or young talent. The Orioles, at least for now, probably won't be one of those teams willing to part with a large amount of quality, young talent. But what if they were?

Over the past several years, the Orioles have made, obviously, some good and bad trades. For the most part, though, the O's have pulled the trigger on moves that not many baseball personnel, analysts, or fans saw coming. Some of the trades seemingly came out of left field and confused many people.

I'll break down the most notable Orioles trades over the past several years right now:

- July 1999 -- The Orioles trade P Juan Guzman to the Reds for P B.J Ryan. This trade may have been one of the O's best of all-time. They acquired their future closer for a couple years for an aging veteran pitcher with very little left in the tank. Unfortunately, the O's lost Ryan to the Blue Jays after the 2005 season via free agency. Ever since that choice, the Orioles have been unsuccessfully searching for a way to bolster the back-end of the bullpen.

- July 2000 -- The Orioles acquire Mike Kinkade, Melvin Mora, Pat Gorman, and Lesli Brea from the Mets for SS Mike Bordick. Not much, if anything, has been heard from Kinkade, Gorman, or Brea since the trade, but the bright spot for the Orioles in this deal was acquiring Mora. When first inserted into the lineup, Mora showed his versatility by being able to play essentially all of the outfield and infield positions. After Ripken's retirement, Mora filled in nicely at third base and teamed with Miguel Tejada to present a formidable one-two punch on the left side of the infield. Mora has recently regressed in his production and has presented some injury concerns, but he is 35+ years old.

- January 2002 -- The Orioles deal OF prospect Willie Harris to the White Sox for OF Chris Singleton. Looking for improvement in centerfield, the Orioles decided that Singleton was their man. Singleton went on to have a disappointing season in 2002, batting only .262 with nine home runs and 50 RBI. And while the trade happened over five years ago, Harris is currently a corner outfielder on the Braves, hitting .326 with 15 stolen bases. Not one of the Orioles finest trades, for sure.

- December 2002 -- The Orioles trade IF Ryan Minor to the Expos for P Jorge Julio. Time certainly has changed some of the perception surrounding this deal. Minor, who was supposed to be Ripken's replacement on the Orioles at one point in time, has never amounted to much in his career. Julio, though, came to the Orioles and showed a lot of promise and performed decently out of the closer's role. Julio always had a great arm, with the ability to occasionally hit triple digits on the radar gun, but he lost control at times and steadily became less and less effective. There will be more on Julio shortly.

- March 2003 -- The Rockies send OF Jack Cust to the Orioles for 1B/OF Chris Richard. By acquiring Cust, the Orioles continued their quest of trying to find a power-hitting corner outfielder to aid the middle of the lineup. Unfortunately, the O's gave up on Cust after only a few seasons of him either riding the pine or being over-looked in the minor leagues. They cut ties with Cust, and this season the Oakland A's picked him up and inserted him into their lineup during a stretch of injuries. Cust has slowed down a bit, but he's hitting .255 for the A's with 16 HR and 45 RBI while receiving steady playing time. It appears as if the O's gave up on him too soon.

- July 2003 -- The Orioles trade SP Sidney Ponson to the Giants for P Damian Moss, P Kurt Ainsworth, and P Ryan Hannaman. This trade, in my opinion, may be the most disappointing of all of these recent trades because of the lack of quality the O's received. When the O's traded Ponson to the Giants in the middle of their pennant race, Ponson was still a very solid pitcher. He helped the Giants rotation immensely. Meanwhile, neither of the three pitchers the Orioles received amounted to much of anything. Moss was overrated and was soon kicked to the curb. Ainsworth had many arm problems to deal with, and I've never even heard Hannaman's name since the trade four years ago. Instead of acquiring any young talent, the O's gave away a once-solid pitcher for next to nothing. And if that wasn't bad enough, the Orioles brought Ponson back, and he proceeded to not only beef up and become ineffective, but he also had problems with the law back home in Aruba. Good going.

- June 2004 -- The Orioles send P Denny Bautista to the Royals for P Jason Grimsley. Not much of a trade here at all; Bautista did very little for the Royals, and Grimsley was terrible for the Orioles. This trade is only notable because it was extremely random and also involved Bautista, who at one time possessed a lot of promise. And it also gave Grimsley a chance to name Miguel Tejada as one of the players who, according to him, uses or used steroids at some point during his career.

- July 2004 -- The Mets trade OF Karim Garcia to the Orioles for P Mike DeJean. I don't have much to add here, but both of these players were absolutely terrible for the O's. DeJean was signed to help out the bullpen, and he rarely seemed to get anybody out. And when Garcia came over, many fans already disliked him because of his whole role in the Yankees-Red Sox scuffle a few years back. Apparently only the Orioles could keep trading so little for even less.

- February 2005 -- The Orioles trade 2B Mike Fontenot, 2B/OF Jerry Hairston Jr., and P Dave Crouthers to the Cubs for OF Sammy Sosa. In a trade that seemed to have very little negative repercussions, the O's decided to bite the bullet and take a chance with Sosa. He managed to underwhelm even his most notable critics, and he proceeded to compile a .221 batting average while hitting only 14 home runs and driving in only 45 in 102 games. Meanwhile, Fontenot has recently been called up by the Cubs and has been absolutely killing the ball. Despite only being called up to be a short-term replacement, Fontenot has managed to hit .331 while earning himself a starting role, for the time being, at second base. He's been one of the main reasons why the Cubs have dramatically improved their play. Thanks for nothing, Sosa.

- July 2005 -- The Rockies deal OF Eric Byrnes to the O's for OF Larry Bigbie. Bigbie was a huge bust for the Orioles and is no longer on any major league roster, but Byrnes has been a huge success this year for the Diamondbacks. After Byrnes came over in the trade, he completely stunk up the joint, batting a horrible .192 in 52 games. But apparently he still had a lot left in the tank, and he's showing it this season. He's hitting .309 with 23 stolen bases. This may have been another example of the Orioles giving up on someone too soon.

- December 2005 -- The Orioles trade P Steve Kline to the Giants for P LaTroy Hawkins. After signing Kline to be the main lefty in the bullpen, the Orioles soon realized that Kline was not who they thought he was (please read Dennis Green style). Kline openly complained and was a clubhouse cancer, so the O's swapped relievers with the Giants. Hawkins came over and had a relatively decent season as a set-up man, but this situation was yet another case of an acquired player causing problems for the whole team.

- January 2006 -- The Mets send P Kris Benson to the Orioles in exchange for P John Maine and P Jorge Julio. This trade with the Mets seemed like a steal at first for the O's. Benson came in and pitched pretty well for the Orioles, even though the whole starting rotation continued to struggle. Meanwhile, Julio showed that he truly was an overrated talent, and he soon pitched his way out of New York. Unfortunately, the same can not be said for John Maine. Maine has pitched brilliantly this year. He has a 10-5 record with a 3.07 ERA and 101 strikeouts. Maine, at one point, was highly thought of in the Orioles farm system, but he repeatedly failed to impress when he was given a chance on the O's roster. But once he was dealt, he seemed to pitch with a chip on his shoulder for the Mets, and he's impressed ever since. I'm not sure if I can fault the Orioles here, but the point is.... well you get the point.

- January 2006 -- The Orioles acquire OF Corey Patterson from the Cubs for SS Nate Spears and P Carlos Perez. This turned out to be an excellent trade for the Orioles. Last year, Patterson played very well, and not much has been heard from Spears or Perez. Recently, Patterson has played much better, but he still hasn't played up to his 2006 season. I'm one of the biggest critics of Patterson, but mostly because I see all of the potential that he has. I truly believe he could be one of the most effective players in the game, simply because of his combination of power and speed. He's so fast, that if he just finds a way to get on base more, he could lead the league in stolen bases. He's faster than Brian Roberts, but he has a completely different approach to hitting. Roberts sprays the ball all over the field and finds ways to get on base. I would love to see Patterson bunt more often, but he doesn't have to; Roberts almost never bunts for base hits. If Patterson tried to hit a few less home runs and worked on his ability to cut down strikeouts, he could really fill the number two hole in the Orioles lineup and put to rest their search for a permanent center fielder. Until then, though, the search may just continue on. One other funny note I did find while searching this trade was that some random blogger stated that the O's made a stupid trade because "Patterson is no better than Luis Matos." That was probably the dumbest thing I've read for a long time.

- August 2006 -- The Orioles send C Javy Lopez to the Red Sox for OF Adam Stern. Lopez quickly became one of the least productive players on the Orioles, and the team decided to dump him as fast as they could. They managed to receive the once highly thought of Adam Stern, who seemed like a decent outfield prospect. However, in 45 games this season for the Norfolk Tides, Stern has managed to hit only .255.

- November 2006 -- The Yankees trade P Jaret Wright and cash to the Orioles for P Chris Britton. This trade, at first, made some sense for both teams. The Yankees got rid of a headache, and the O's took a gamble on reuniting Wright with pitching coach Leo Mazzone. Wright only had a chance to make a few starts before he got hurt and ended up on the DL. Currently, he's still on the DL, and he doesn't really figure into the Orioles plans anymore. Not much else to add here.

- December 2006 -- The Orioles acquire Freddie Bynum from the Cubs for some minor league player I could never find. Bynum has shown his versatility for the O's, and he could become a player on the roster for years to come. He's had some run-ins with coaches recently for some undetermined reasons, but he plays hard and doesn't seem to complain that much. I just like the way he plays, evidenced by his hard slide into second base one game where he entered as a pinch-runner. He's willing to do the little things to win, and that's important.


The whole point of looking back over some of the past trades the Orioles have made is to see the likelihood that they'll actually make a smart move in whatever they do. When breaking down these 16 trades I've mentioned, in my opinion, the Orioles only won six of them by adding BJ Ryan, Melvin Mora, Jack Cust, Eric Byrnes, Corey Patterson, and Freddie Bynum. And out of those six, the Orioles lost Ryan, Cust, and Byrnes in a short period of time. Only Mora, Patterson, and Bynum remain with the team.

On the other hand, the Orioles seemed to lose four of those trades, losing Willie Harris, Mike Fontenot, and John Maine in the process. That doesn't seem like a very bad ratio, but considering that the Orioles gave up on decent players too early, they managed to instead bring in overrated talent that completely disrupted the team's chemistry. Players like Jason Grimsley, Steve Kline, Karim Garcia, and Sammy Sosa performed very poorly and gave very little to the franchise as a whole. Most of them, such as Sosa and Kline, just brought controversy to a team simply searching for a way to regain the ability to win games.

In the end, these past trades may not have very much to do with the possibility of adding Mark Teixeira to the team. He really wants to be an Oriole, which isn't much that other players in the MLB can truly admit.

Hopefully the Orioles can add Teixeira to the roster either through a trade or through free agency after 2008.

I just hope they don't give up on some younger players too soon who haven't had a chance to show exactly what they can do for the team. But anything can happen -- this is the Orioles after all.

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