Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tejada Traded To Astros

A day before the Mitchell report comes out, Baltimore finally gets rid off their unhappy slugger Miguel Tejada and trades him to the Houston Astros for five little known players. Hmm. Is it just a coincidence? Or do the Orioles want to start the 2008 season with a clean slate, knowing that some of their players will inevitably be named in former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell's long-awaited "Steroids" Report, which is due out Thursday?

True, a current Oriole may still be in the report, including Jay Gibbons, but the disclosure of his name wouldn't carry the weight of disappointment or outrage the way a star player's name like Tejada's would.

But this Orioles-Astros trade seems rushed and at the moment, unproductive for Baltimore as they got no big name players in return: "...outfielder Luke Scott, pitchers Matt Albers, Troy Patton and Dennis Sarfate, and third baseman Michael Costanzo." Do any of these names sound familiar to you? Me neither. Luke Scott is the only somewhat recognizable name since he played in 132 games last year. But in 2007, his third season, his numbers and production thus far in his career makes him comparable to a young Coco Crisp, who is also on the trading block. And even if some of these other players develop rather quickly into everyday major league players, you have to wonder why both teams made this trade in this manner at this time.

The Minnesota Twins have been busy trying to trade their unhappy franchise pitcher Johan Santana for major league-ready talent from teams such as the Red Sox, Mets and perhaps that other New York team for weeks now. That's a smart goal and business move; you lose a franchise player like Santana and then try to get potential franchise centerfielders like Jacoby Ellsbury or veterans like Coco Crisp and a young lefty such as Jon Lester - all of whom contributed to a World Series championship two months ago - in return.

But for Baltimore's president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail to accept a bunch of mostly unproven talent while trading away Tejada just doesn't sound like a smart business move and that he got the most value for him that he possibly could. True, Tejada is 31-years-old now and his numbers are down from his incredible 2004 season where he knocked in 150 runners and was injured for the first time in his career in 2007, thereby possibly weakening his trade value.

Call it pure speculation, but maybe there was something else to this trade. Tejada's numbers have been in steady decline since 2005, which is around the time when MLB got tougher on steroid/illegal drug penalties. Remember, both illegal drug users Rafael Palmeiro (in 2005) and Jason Grimsley (in 2006) accused or named Miguel Tejada as basically being one of them, even though Tejada's name was later absolved of any blame for Palmeiro's failed steroid test. So don't be surprised if Miguel Tejada's name turns up in Mitchell's report tomorrow. And don't be surprised if Baltimore then gets accused of hurrying him out of town before any possible outcry of "get the cheater out of here" could start around town.

Even if he isn't one of the 60-80 current or former MLB players that turn up in the Mitchell report, this kind of trade is still questionable. Why would the Astros, who finished 2007 with a lousy record (73-89) be so willing to give up 5 young players to Baltimore if they were really that good? My feeling is, they got the better end of the deal and was more than willing to take one of the better shortstops in the game - even if his numbers have declined - and hand Baltimore 5 mid-to-upper level prospects and barely seasoned players. Call MacPhail a sucker, a desperate front office guy...or if I turn out to be wrong and these prospects turn to gold, a freaking genius.

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