MLB Trades: Baltimore Orioles Deal Koji Uehara to Texas for Underperforming Duo

Zachary BallAnalyst IJuly 30, 2011

BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 17: Relief pitcher Koji Uehara #19 of the Baltimore Orioles sits in front of a fan while sitting in the bullpen during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on July 17, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. The Orioles defeated the Indians 8-3.(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Baltimore Orioles have been the subject of trade talks due to the fact that they have a number of veterans, many of whom have experience in the playoffs.

Still, it was no surprise that the first Orioles player dealt was reliever Koji Uehara, a virgin when it comes to the playoffs, but arguably the team's best pitcher through the first four months of the season. The 36-year-old reliever has made 43 appearances for Baltimore this year, posting a 1.72 ERA and a 60-to-eight K:BB ratio in 47 innings. Uehara has allowed just 25 hits this season and is holding batters to a .152 average—by far the best number of his three-year career.

Against AL West opponents, Uehara has allowed just one run in 7.1 innings. In addition, Uehara has closing experience and could fill that role if needed.

Uehara has been brilliant ever since coming back from an arm injury that limited him to just 12 starts during his debut season in the United States. He's pitched strictly in relief the past two seasons and has compiled an ERA of 2.27 since the "demotion" to the bullpen.

It's no wonder the Texas Rangers were interested in him, and more than willing to part with two players who have played major roles for them.

Chris Davis was the Rangers' top hitting prospect once upon a time. He rocketed through the minor leagues, bashing home runs at an ungodly pace. He hit 36 during the 2007 season and combined to hit 40 (23 in the minors, 17 in the majors) in 2008. He's hit 20 home runs twice since then, but hasn't been able to recapture the form that made him a Rookie of the Year candidate during the 2008 season.

His big league average decreased from .285 in 2008 to .238 in 2009, before dropping below the Mendoza line to .192 during a 45-game trial last year.

This year, Davis has played sparingly for Texas, appearing in 28 games, hitting .250 with three homers and a five-to-24 BB:K ratio. He's played mostly for the Rangers' Triple-A affiliate, where he's been his same old homer-happy self, clubbing 24 long balls in just 48 games, while maintaining a .368 average. Both numbers would be near the top of the chart in the PCL standings had he acquired enough at-bats to qualify.

The O's are hoping that Davis can regain his stroke (he's just 25 years old) and hopefully take over first base from Derrek Lee, assuming the veteran gets dealt before Sunday's deadline.

The other player acquired, right-hander Tommy Hunter, fulfills the Orioles front office request for more pitching. Also 25 years old, Hunter has bounced back and forth from Triple-A to the big leagues in each of the past four seasons. His brightest moments came during 2010, when he posted a 13-4 record and a 3.63 ERA during 22 starts and was an integral part of the Rangers run to the World Series.

Hunter was expected to factor into the Rangers rotation this season, but sprained his groin and was forced to begin the year on the disabled list. By the time he returned, Alexi Ogando had blossomed and Hunter was sent to the bullpen. He's made eight appearances for Texas this season, posting a 2.93 ERA.

Hunter is expected to give the Orioles rotation, which has dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness since the All-Star break, a much-needed boost.

In giving up Uehara the O's have to part with the one player who has been a stabilizing force in their bullpen since 2010, but they are picking up two players who will likely play major roles in the rebuilding process that is forever going on in Baltimore.