The Texas Rangers have made their first move as the July 31st trade deadline approaches. The Rangers have traded for the services of Oriole reliever Koji Uehara. Uehara, age 36, has been the Orioles right-handed setup man, and what a setup man at that.
The Rangers traded away 1B/3B Chris Davis and RHP Tommy Hunter for the services of Uehara. Uehara has a 2012 vesting option that is more than likely to vest, but it's only woth $4MM. Plus the Orioles have thrown in $2MM in the deal, meaning the Rangers will only pay Uehara $2MM for his services next season.
On the season Uehara is boasting a 1.72 ERA and 0.70 WHIP in the 47 innings pitched. He has struckout 62 while only walking eight on the season and opponents are hitting only .152 against him in 2011. The .152 AVG. and a .191 On-Base PCT are both the best numbers for relievers in the AL in 2011.
In his career as a reliever, Uehara in two seasons has thrown 91 innings, struckout 117 while only walking 13. His 7.75 K/BB ratio in that time is the highest amongst all AL relievers in the past two seasons.
Worried he is only good at home, on the road this season Uehara 1.80 ERA and a .155 opponents' batting AVG. Uehara has actually been better against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .136 batting AVG., plus he has not yet walked a right-handed batter this season.
Many baseball experts, and not "quantity over quality" writers are raving the Rangers front office for making this move. Kevin Goldstein compared this move to the much talked about trade talks with San Diego in regards to Heath Bell and stated, "better reliever for lesser price."
I don't want to sound like I'm ready to get rid of Davis and Hunter, ok maybe just one of them. But realistically neither had a true future remaining with the Rangers. Davis's options have run out, so if the Rangers didn't put him on the 25-man starting roster next season he'd be exposed to league-wide waivers. And I guarantee you someone would snatch him up. Davis might figure it out and do something more than be a stud AAA player, maybe not, either way it never was going to be with the Rangers.
As for Hunter, I will miss "Big Game" and I wish him the best. The Orioles view Hunter as a starting pitcher, the Rangers have had him in the bullpen this season, and if you asked Hunter his heart is as a starter. But he was never again going to be a starter in the Rangers organization, not with the emergence of Derek Holland, Matt Harrison, and Alexi Ogando. Not even mentioning the handfuls of young starters in AAA and AA.
Arguable the best setup man in the American League in 2011 and half of his 2012 contract for two players whose time in Texas were waining down quickly, that equals an awesome move by Jon Daniels and his league of super-friends (front office staff).
Also in case your Japanese needs some refreshing the title says, "Welcome to Texas."