Dec 9, 2009, 6:35 PM EDT
It was a prerequisite to the Rangers’ signing of Rich Harden; Kevin Milllwood’s $12 million salary simply had to be stricken from the books.
To make it happen, the Rangers ate $3 million and sent the veteran to the Orioles for former closer Chris Ray and a player to be named.
Millwood is coming off his best season in his four with Texas, as he went 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA in 31 starts. It seems like he’s frequently dealt with leg problems in recent years, but he still averaged 31 starts per year as a Ranger. He’s at that same 31 even if you go back eight years.
And that’s the kind of stability the Orioles were looking to add to a rotation that’s only other sure thing is Jeremy Guthrie. They’ll accept a return to 4.00+ ERA from Millwood if he stays on 200-inning pace. And if some other young starters come along as hoped, he could be traded again at the deadline, most likely at a profit.
The key here is that the Orioles kept all of their promising young starters and instead parted with Ray, who will still intriguing but was also arbitration eligible and no longer prized by the team. The soon-to-be 28-year-old Ray saved 33 games in his first full season in the majors in 2006, but he required Tommy John surgery in Aug. 2007, missed all of 2008 and failed to bounce back as hoped last season. He ended up with a 7.27 ERA in 43 1/3 innings for the club.
The good news is that Ray didn’t leave much velocity on the table. He still throws 92-95 mph consistently. However, AL batters typically had a very easy time lining up his fastball last season, and his decision to rely more and more on his slider did him little good. A new pitching coach in Mike Maddux might be just what he needs to turn his career around and reemerge as a quality late-game reliever. Still, it’s at least as likely that he’ll be off the 40-man roster by June 1 as it is that he’ll be a major asset in the Texas pen.
In the end, both teams are getting what they wanted here. The Orioles identified Millwood as more desirable than the free agent options and got him without surrendering a key piece. The Rangers viewed Harden as a potential upgrade for their rotation and still saved $1.5 million with the rotation switch. Sounds like a good trade to me.
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