Koji Uehara

Koji Uehara a better fit for Rangers than Heath Bell

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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.

Evan Gattis undergoes surgery for hernia; recovery is 4-6 weeks

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Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle shares the bad news

One of the Astros’ big bats won’t be taking hacks when the Astros hold their first full workout on Feb. 23.

Astros designated hitter Evan Gattis recently underwent surgery to repair a hernia, the Chronicle has learned, taking away most of his spring training at a minimum. The recovery is four to six weeks but fortunately for Gattis and the Astros, the injury is not considered severe.

Gattis was working hard on his overall conditioning this winter, even telling MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart in late January that he had already dropped 18 pounds. It sounds like the big slugger might have gone a bit overboard with those workouts, and now he is in real danger of missing the first couple weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Gattis batted .246/.285/.463 with 27 home runs and 88 RBI in 153 games last season for the Astros. The 29-year-old is arbitration-eligible for the first time in his career and has a hearing with the Astros scheduled for February 16 to determine his salary for 2016. He requested $3.8 million and was offered $3 million when figures were exchanged a little over three weeks ago.

Suddenly the Astros’ front office might have a new talking point for those arbitrators.

Seung-Hwan Oh finally receives his work visa, will be on time for Cardinals camp

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At last check, new Cardinals reliever Seung-Hwan Oh was still awaiting a work visa from the United States Embassy in South Korea and there was some worry that he might not be able to arrive on time to spring training in Jupiter, Florida.

But that is now officially a non-story.

Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Oh has recieved his work visa and is expected to report to Cardinals camp next week along with the rest of the club’s pitchers and catchers. Oh might even show up a bit earlier than the Cardinals originally asked him to, per Goold.

Oh saved 357 games in 11 seasons between Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball and the Korea Baseball Organization before inking a one-year contract with St. Louis this winter. He also registered a stellar 1.81 ERA and 772 strikeouts across 646 total innings in Asia, earning the nickname “The Final Boss.”

Oh is expected to work in a setup role this year for Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal.

John Lamb had back surgery in December, will likely get off to late start in 2016

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John Lamb was part of the Reds’ return package in last July’s Johnny Cueto trade and he had a strong showing at the Triple-A level in 2015. But the young left-hander posted a 5.80 ERA in a 10-start cup of coffee with Cincinnati late last season — his first 10 appearances as a major leaguer — and now comes word from MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that Lamb will probably have to get off to a late start in 2016.

Lamb underwent surgery in December to repair a herniated disc in his back — a surgery that went unreported by the Reds until Tuesday afternoon. Reds manager Bryan Price acknowledged on MLB Network that Lamb is behind the team’s other starting pitchers and will likely open the coming season on the disabled list. The hope is that he might be ready by mid-April.

It’s a small but frustrating blow for a rebuilding Reds team that will be looking to establish some foundational pieces in 2016. Once he is recovered, Lamb will be expected to fill the Reds’ fifth rotation spot behind Raisel Iglesias, Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, and Michael Lorenzen.

This is going to be an ugly year for Cincinnati baseball fans.

Yu Darvish will report to spring training on time, hopes to begin mound work in March

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Rangers ace Yu Darvish missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive elbow surgery last March 17. Most starting pitchers take 13-15 months to fully recover from that procedure, and the Rangers aren’t counting on Darvish until sometime this May.

His rehab so far has gone on without issue.

Darvish offered some very positive updates Tuesday to Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram …

Darvish, 29, boasts a 3.27 ERA and 1.196 WHIP in 83 career major league starts. He can also claim a whopping 680 strikeouts in 545 1/3 career major league innings.

Texas has him under contract for $10 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.