Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Miguel Tejada to the Astros for Guys I Don't Know

I've followed by old hometown baseball franchise fitfully since I left the DC-Baltimore economic corridor, but they've always enjoyed a soft spot in my heart (the part of my heart not covered in arterial plaque).

And I've been wishing them well from afar. I've been very excited to watch the development of Erik Bedard (who, now that he is good, is on the trading block). I was very very excited when the O's acquired Tejada back in the day. But I'm very happy to see him gone.

I'll let the more Baltimore-centric folks over at The Loss Column weigh in on the merits of the trade. Anything factual I wrote about it would have been cribbed from them anyway.

I will say this--any overly large 31 year old man who gets pissy about moving away from shortstop isn't looking to be a team player. Cal Ripken Jr moved over to third without complaining. Smell ya later, Miguel!

1 comment:

Jerious Norwood said...

The venerable Keith Law at seems to think the O's easily got the best of this deal.

By acquiring Miguel Tejada, the Astros seem hellbent on trying to contend in 2008, and the Orioles are the happy beneficiaries. In Tejada, Houston gets a good player who's already in decline and Baltimore receives a good mix of quantity and quality in return.

The Astros do improve their offense significantly with the move, albeit at some cost on defense, so that the net gain is probably under two wins. The Astros were looking at a lineup that on some days would have five players with OPS's under .700 (Michael Bourn, Kaz Matsui, Brad Ausmus, Adam Everett and the pitcher), whereas Tejada still has good plate coverage and pull power.

The move to Houston's ballpark, which is very friendly to right-handed pull hitters, should help Tejada's homer total, but he's a hitter in decline -- his listed age is 31, and several front-office executives have told me they believe that number is low -- and he could easily have to move off shortstop before his contract is up. The move leaves them free to non-tender Everett, one of the best defensive shortstops in the game but also one of the five worst everyday hitters in the majors, saving them $4 million or so on his expected arbitration award.

Baltimore gets a big haul considering Tejada's declining performance and healthy contract. The two central guys in the deal are the young starting pitchers. Left-hander Troy Patton has been a top Houston prospect for several years, and while his stuff hasn't ticked upward as projected, he has good feel of an arsenal that includes a four-seamer at 88-92 mph, a plus changeup with good arm speed and fading action, and a fringy slider at 80-84 mph that has some tilt but tends to flatten out. He projects as a solid No. 4 starter, although he comes open a bit in his delivery and has had minor shoulder problems on and off as a pro.

Right-hander Matt Albers is the other side of the coin; where Patton has good command of average stuff, Albers has below-average command of good stuff, with two pitches that project as plus -- a fastball at 92-96 mph and a hard curveball in the low 80s with a very sharp break. He lacks a solid third pitch to get lefties out, and his command has a long way to go, but his arm is too good to be included in a big package like this.

Baltimore also picked up three other players, although none figure into the Orioles' long-term plans just yet. Luke Scott, a left-handed-hitting corner outfielder coveted by a number of other clubs to be part of a platoon solution in left or right field; his defense is shaky but he shines against right-handed pitching. Don't be surprised if the Orioles keep him moving in a second deal.

Right-hander Dennis Sarfate has an outstanding arm, with a 95-98 mph fastball and good downhill plane, but his control ranges from bad to horrid, and he's just a good lottery ticket for the Orioles at this point, which makes him a good fourth guy in a deal. Mike Costanzo projects as a quadruple-A player; he has trouble making contact with better stuff and is very rough at third base.

It's hard to make sense of this deal for Houston, a club that continues to act like a contender despite going 73-89 last year with no real reason to expect the in-house personnel to improve. The trade also leaves the Astros' rotation short at least one and probably two arms; Roy Oswalt, Woody Williams, and Wandy Rodriguez are set in the top three spots, but behind them, the candidates are Brandon Backe (not far off major elbow surgery), Chris Sampson, Juan Gutierrez and Felipe Paulino, none of whom is ready and able to pitch in a contender's rotation.

Houston is probably two more moves away from reaching .500, and they've already sacrificed a good chunk of the tradeable assets in their farm system in making this trade. What's more, by 2010, this could easily be one of the worst teams in baseball, with little help coming from the farm, Tejada probably gone to free agency, and two 34-year-old bats in Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee making a combined $33 million.