Enjoy the improbable playoff race in Pittsburgh, Derrek! (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Sunday afternoon marked the non-waiver trade deadline, and the Orioles did some things. Let's review (with all salary and service time coming from the amazing Cot's Contracts):
Koji Uehara and the approximately 1 million dollars remaining on his contract for this year (and his 4 million dollar vesting option for 2012), along with 2 million dollars cash were traded to the Texas Rangers for Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter. Hunter and Davis are owed a combined approx. 300,000 dollars in 2011 and who are both under contract through 2015.
Derrek Lee and the approx. $2.5 million still owed to him (and the much-discussed $2.75 million in service time bonuses Lee is on pace to accrue), along with "between $500,000 and $1.75 million depending on how many plate appearances Lee ends up with" (per The Sun) were traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates for non-prospect low-minors first baseman Aaron Baker.
So, all in all, the Orioles shaved about 1.2 million dollars off their 2011 budget, and saved around one million dollars of what they would have owed Lee in bonuses. They also dropped their already-committed 2012 budget by 3 million dollars (assuming both that Koji's option will vest and Hunter and Davis are both still in Baltimore next season). They also, of course, effectively replace Lee with Davis and Koji with Hunter (who will be used as a starting pitcher).
In case you are unaware of the rules governing the trading rules, the "non-waiver trading deadline" is the last point in the season where a player can be freely traded to another team without any obstacles and/or hoops needing to be jumped over/through. Throughout August, however, players who are traded need to be first put on revocable waivers, where any team can claim the player. The waiving team can then pull the player back, which means they keep him for the remainder of the season, or simply give the player and his contract to the claiming team for no return. Any player that goes unclaimed can then be traded as normal.
So, it is certainly within the realm of possibility that the Orioles roster will still see some changes before the year ends, but the idea of any critical pieces coming back our way is unrealistic. And of course the salaries potentially being dumped will get smaller and smaller as time goes by. So this is basically what it is: two young players in, two old players out, and about $2MM in the bank.
(A note: The rest of this post exists more or less as a counter-point to an earlier, more optimistic post by birdman, which I highly recommend.)
The two newest Orioles are both interesting but flawed players. Chris Davis has been a high-power, low-OBP hitter who struggles against lefties in his brief major league experience. This year in the hitting-friendly Pacific Coast League Davis has clobbered a 1.229 OPS in 48 games, but did it without showing much walk-drawing talent, and his .368 batting average is highly unlikely to translate to the AL East. Still he's an interesting guy who could maybe make a name for himself in Baltimore if the Orioles give him an extended opportunity to prove himself.
Of course, based on the terribly stupid way the Orioles have treated Nolan Reimold this year, I can't think of a single reason why they'd actually give that extended chance to Davis.
Tommy Hunter is to me much less interesting, a pitcher likely to put up an ERA in the high 4s. He doesn't strike out many batters and relies on low walk numbers. That vague description draws comparisons in my brain to Brad Bergesen. So there's that. Hunter is just 25, so maybe he can get a bit better, but he probably is what he is.
The Orioles are better after these trades than before, but Hunter and Davis certainly don't really fix any of the myriad of big problems on the team, even though the net return seems pretty decent. The extra cash on hand is certainly nice as the Orioles try to sign some of their unsigned and expensive draftees (well, I hope it could go towards them, anyway) like Dylan Bundy, Jason Coats, Jason Esposito, or Nick Delmonico. It's not a lot of extra money to play with, but if it's the difference between nobody and Coats, that makes the trade look that much better (and the off-season signings that much more misguided).
Taken as the Orioles' "big trade deadline moves", these acquisitions fit right in with the overall (and to my mind misguided) team philosophy of relying on the core that is already in Baltimore to develop into a playoff contender. If the O's will need to go through another serious rebuilding effort - which seems right now pretty likely - then that process (and the point in time of coming out of rebuilding) has been put off at least until this winter and more likely until this time next year at the earliest.
In other words, there's still a lot of work to be done in Baltimore to bring the organization's talent level up to where it needs to be. But, well, what else is new, huh?