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.