Orioles could make dominant setup man Koji Uehara available

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Baltimore took care of one potential free agent-to-be by signing shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $22.5 million extension, but Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun speculates that the Orioles will be shopping setup man Koji Uehara leading up to the July 31 trade deadline.

Uehara has around $1 million remaining on this year’s contract and his deal also includes a $4 million option for 2012 that vests with 55 appearances or 25 games finished. Right now he’s on pace for 70 appearances and 33 games finished, so any team that deals for Uehara would be doing so with an eye on keeping him for next season.

He didn’t draw a ton of interest as a free agent, in part because of injury concerns and in part because of a limited track record as a reliever, but Uehara has been healthy and dominant this year with a 1.88 ERA, .150 opponents’ batting average, and 58/8 K/BB ratio in 44 innings.

Combined with his work out of the bullpen last season and the 36-year-old right-hander now has a 2.35 ERA, .187 opponents’ batting average, and 113/13 K/BB ratio in 88 career innings as a reliever. If the Orioles make him available plenty of contending teams should be very interested.