Baltimore Orioles: Revisiting the Uehara trade


Birds Watcher staff writer Randy Buchman reminded us of the Koji Uehara trade on Halloween. In 2011 the Baltimore Orioles sent reliever Koji Uehara to Texas (who needed bullpen help at the time) in exchange for pitcher Tommy Hunter and first base prospect Chris Davis. Let me digress here for a moment; in war and politics we hear a lot about winning the war and also winning the peace. (Basically keeping order and winning the hearts and minds in a conquered nation after sacking their government.) For the record, it goes without saying that the O’s won the war on the Uehara trade. But did they win the peace?

While Hunter has had some up and down moments with the O’s, he’s been decent. Davis obviously speaks for himself. So there’s no question in that sense that the Orioles won the war. In fact, this can be highlighted by saying that Hunter and Davis’ Orioles defeated Uehara’s Rangers in the 2012 AL Wild Card Game. That, combined with what Davis did in 2013 makes the return of the trade heavily slanted in the Orioles’ favor.

However there’s one sour note with regard to the trade: Uehara never wanted to leave. Granted

Courtesy of Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

business is business and all of that goes without saying, however I recall Uehara almost in tears when the trade was announced. Uehara was a free agent last off season, but the Orioles claimed they couldn’t afford him. Instead he signed with Boston for $4 million plus. And we know what he did in Boston, and what the net result was: Boston winning the world series. So again, did the Orioles win or lose “the peace?”

If you’re going based squarely on the result of Boston winning the title this year, I guess the Orioles lost the peace. But that also assumes a few things. First off, the fact that Uehara was the only reason that Boston won the championship. And that’s not true. To take that a step further, it assumes that if Koji wasn’t on the team they wouldn’t have won the world series. Who really knows how true that could be given the fact that we can’t play back history to see how Boston’s season would have ended without Uehara, however the fact is that he had 21 saves in the regular season.

This is all a very relative discussion. However we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves a bit; the question was about the trade, right? If Koji isn’t traded his contract still would have expired with the Orioles after last season. So there’s always the chance that he still could have gone to the BoSox, however the Orioles probably don’t experience the resurgence that they did last year (as well as this season) if not for that trade. Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter were integral parts of both seasons. Even with Uehara winning a title with the BoSox, we can’t scoff at the Uehara trade from the Orioles’ perspective. I’m not sure that “winning the peace” is even a part of this discussion, given that Uehara would have been a free agent anyways. And for the record, the only reason that this is a topic is because one of the Orioles’ division rivals won the title. But if you think the trade wasn’t worth the while based on that, I’m sure that Texas would gladly take Hunter and Davis back…but Koji’s under contract with Boston so I’m not sure the Orioles would get him back in return.