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.

Source: Aaron Judge, Yankees reach $360M, 9-year deal

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SAN DIEGO (AP) — Aaron Judge has agreed to return to the New York Yankees on a $360 million, nine-year contract, according to a person familiar with the deal.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on Wednesday because the deal had not been announced.

Judge will earn $40 million per season, the highest average annual payout for a position player. The contract trails only Mike Trout’s $426.5 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels and Mookie Betts’ $365 million pact with the Los Angeles Dodgers for biggest in baseball history.

Judge was offered a long-term deal by New York before last season that was worth $213.5 million over seven years from 2023-29. But he turned it down in the hours before opening day in April.

The 6-foot-7 Judge bet on himself — and won.

Judge set an American League record with 62 homers in 2022, powering the Yankees to the AL East title. He also tied for the major league lead with 131 RBIs and just missed a Triple Crown with a .311 batting average.

New York was swept by Houston in the AL Championship Series, but Judge became the first AL MVP for the Yankees since Alex Rodriguez in 2007.

Judge, 30, was selected by New York in the first round of the 2013 amateur draft and made his big league debut in 2016, homering in his first at-bat.

A year later, he was one of baseball’s breakout stars. He hit .284 with 52 homers and 114 RBIs in 2017, winning the AL Rookie of the Year award. The four-time All-Star has 220 homers and 497 RBIs in seven big league seasons.