Baltimore Orioles: Free Koji!
We hear so much about guys wanting to get out of Baltimore, or players potentially not wanting to sign with the Orioles due to the stigma that comes with 14 straight years of losing. In a sense, “one of the Orioles’ own” is sitting deep in the heart of Texas begging to be “traded back home.” The O’s traded Koji Uehara to the Texas Rangers last July in a deal that sent Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter to the O’s. Uehara was originally signed to a two-year contract by the Orioles (later re-signed) before the 2008 season, and has been a solid but injury-prone reliever for the Orioles.
We’ve been hearing for a few weeks that Koji wants to be traded back to the Orioles. His family is still in Baltimore, and he still lives in the Baltimore area. As is the case in all things, it’s really an issue of price. Last year I felt that the Orioles got a good deal in trading Koji, save for the fact that Chris Davis almost immediately went to the DL with shoulder problems. However they got good value in the sense that they got two players with good potential. The question is whether or not the Orioles would want to give up players of the same caliber or potential for yet another pitcher.
I’m the first one to say that I’m a bit skeptical on this…only a bit. Uehara was signed by the Orioles to be a starting pitcher. However it soon became evident that he wasn’t starter material in the sense that he seemed to peter out after five innings. Come the middle of July or August when the blonde sunshine would beat down, Uehara’s endurance got to be even less. That’s become the mark of pitchers in the Japanese league; they’re only used to pitching once a week so they do struggle with their endurance. However on the up side Uehara did have pinpoint accuracy while he was pitching at his peak (another mark of Japanese pitchers) in games. Furthermore I always felt that Uehara was a fan favorite at Camden Yards, and ultimately he’s all but begging to be traded back to the Orioles. (He recently used the no-trade clause in his contract to reject a potential deal to Toronto.)
Ultimately I suppose that in my opinion the O’s trading for Uehara wouldn’t make as much sense as it does to some people. He’ll be turning 37 just before Opening Day in April. Tying into that point, I mentioned above that Uehara has had injury problems. Don’t the O’s already have enough on their plate without taking on a reliever that might not even make it out of camp without getting hurt? However that aside, the Birds have enough pitchers on their roster as it is. I’m not ruling out that some of them might not be packaged in a trade along the way, however as it stands now the O’s have a lot of pitchers on staff. I suppose that once the season gets started if they feel that they need some bullpen help they could keep the idea of dealing for Uehara in the back of their minds. I liked Uehara and I was sorry to see him go when they traded him, however I recognized that was part of the business. This is not to say that bringing him back would be a huge and uncalculated risk either. It would just be a risk that I feel they could wager in a better place.
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