The Rangers needed a reliever, not a closer, and they got one of the game’s best setup men from the Orioles when they traded Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter for Koji Uehara and $2 million on Saturday.
Uehara has a 2.27 ERA and a remarkable 117/13 K/BB ratio in 91 innings since the Orioles shifted him to the pen last year. His trick elbow is a concern, but he’s pretty much the perfect eighth-inning guy when healthy.
And if he can stay healthy, he’ll probably pitch better than Heath Bell would have for the Rangers. Uehara won’t be intimidated by Arlington after pitching at Camden Yards the last three years. His ERA+ the last two years is 181. Bell’s is 175 over the same timeframe. Bell has the superior actual ERA at 2.08, but after accounting for league and ballpark, Uehara has been a bit more effective.
The Rangers did give up quite a bit in return here, but it was probably worth it to get an eighth-inning guy, particularly one who has a vesting option for next year at $4 million. And the Orioles did well to get two intriguing pieces for a reliever no one wanted to sign to a multiyear deal last winter.
The 25-year-old Davis seems to have taken a step forward this season after two disappointing years. His .250/.299/.403 line in 72 at-bats for the Rangers isn’t particularly impressive, but it also isn’t bad for someone getting sporadic playing time. He was a true terror in Triple-A, hitting .368/.405/.824 with 23 homers in just 193 at-bats. Davis has always had big problems with strikeouts, but he has improved a bit there this season.
The Rangers soured on Hunter because of his conditioning problems, but he’s a 25-year-old with a career record of 23-13 and a 4.36 ERA in the major leagues. He can slot into the Baltimore rotation immediately and serve as a decent fourth starter going forward.
I don’t usually rate trades as win-wins, but I think it is the case here. The Rangers get an excellent reliever for less than Bell would have cost, and the Orioles got to gamble on some upside. Plus, this frees up Derrek Lee to be used in a deal for Baltimore. Don’t be surprised if he’s shipped to Pittsburgh within the next few hours, allowing the Orioles to put Mark Reynolds at first and Davis at third.
Jon Morosi of FOX Sports reports that the Tigers are in discussions with free agent starter Jordan Zimmermann. His sources have told him that the talks have become “serious”.
Zimmermann, 29, has a career 3.32 ERA across parts of seven seasons in the majors. He finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting in 2014, finishing with a 2.66 ERA and a 182/29 K/BB ratio over 199 2/3 innings.
Among starters who have amassed at least 1,000 innings since 2009, only Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Madison Bumgarner, and Zack Greinke have compiled a better strikeout-to-walk ratio than Zimmermann’s 4.09. While he doesn’t have the star power of other free agents such as Greinke or David Price, the Tigers would certainly improve their rotation by bringing him on board.
Having already added Jesse Chavez and J.A. Happ to the mix and re-signing Marco Estrada early in the offseason, Blue Jays interim GM Tony LaCava said the team will continue to pursue pitching upgrades, as Sportsnet’s Ben Nicholson-Smith reports. Nicholson-Smith added that LaCava declined to comment on free agent ace David Price. It is believed that the Jays will not pursue Price and other big-name free agent starting pitchers given their November activity.
The Jays re-signed Estrada to a two-year, $26 million deal on November 13, acquired Chavez from the Athletics in exchange for reliever Liam Hendriks on November 20 and signed Happ to a three-year, $36 million deal on Friday.
Nicholson-Smith notes in a column on Sportsnet that the Jays need to address the bullpen in particular. That is especially true after swapping Hendriks, who had a career-best 2.92 ERA out of the Jays’ bullpen in 2015, for a back-end starting pitcher.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports spoke to an anonymous baseball executive, who said that Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon is “untradeable”. The Nationals are hoping to trade both Papelbon and the man he displaced, Drew Storen.
Papelbon has a poor reputation in baseball, particularly after a dugout altercation with superstar outfielder Bryce Harper. Focusing strictly on what he does on the field, Papelbon still gets the job done. The 35-year-old finished the last season with a combined 2.13 ERA, 24 saves, and a 56/12 K/BB ratio over 63 1/3 innings between the Phillies and Nationals.
The Nationals owe Papelbon $11 million for the 2016 season.
Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reports that corner infielder Mike Hessman has retired from professional baseball after 20 seasons. Hessman hit 433 home runs in the minor leagues, an all-time record. He broke Buzz Arlett’s record this past August and with style as #433 was a grand slam.
Hessman, 37, was selected in the 16th round of the 1996 draft by the Braves and remained with the organization through the 2004 season. He then went to the Tigers from 2005-09, the Mets in 2010, then drifted into the Astros and Reds’ farm systems before returning to the Tigers for the last two years.
Hessman took 250 plate appearances at the major league level, batting .188/.272/.422 with 14 home runs and 33 RBI.