Well, the Orioles welcomed me back with their first big move of the 2007 season by trading Miguel Tejada to the Astros for five players.
At first look, and considering everything, I like this deal. The Orioles picked up five useful players who have the chance to help the Orioles now and into the future. Let's start with Miguel Tejada though. The fact was that the Orioles were going to most likely lose 100 games with him or without him next year so the idea was to get as much value as possible out of him. Rumors that in baseball circles that he will be on the Mitchell Report as well as the fact there are still some concerns in some parts within baseball that he's older then his listed age, along with the fact that just about no one thinks he's still an everyday major league shortstop defensively, has curtailed his value despite a still potent bat.
With all of this mind, the Orioles made good deal getting five players that have potential to fill roles in the major leagues. Although the Orioles did not get a crown jewel in the deal, they did pick up a starting outfielder in Luke Scott, the Astros top prospect in left-handed starter Troy Patton, two good arms in Matt Albers and Dennis Sarfate, and a power hitting third base prospect in Mike Costanzo.
Let's look at each player a little closer. Scott is a 29-year old (turns 30 in June next year) left-handed hitting outfielder who has a career .882 OPS in 663 major league at bats. Although for some reason some people seem to think he's a platoon outfielder at best, his career .819 OPS against southpaws suggest he'll be a productive everyday outfielder for the Orioles. He mainly has played right field last year, but he'll most likely move over to left field for the Orioles with Nick Markakis entrenched in right field. Oh, and he's not a product of a hitter friendly Minute Maid Field since he put up a .894 OPS away last season. From my perspective the Orioles picked up their best everyday left fielder since BJ Surhoff in his prime.
Patton, who will pitch the entire 2008 season at 22-years of age, has been widely considered one of the Astros best prospects since he burst on the prospect scene after signing for $900,000 as a ninth round pick instead of going to the University of Texas. Although scouts have varied on his ceiling, some have it as high as number two starter. With a fastball that sits in the 91-92 MPH range with a top out in the mid 90s to go along with a solid change and improved breaking ball, it's hard to imagine that he won't be given every opportunity to make the Orioles rotation next season. Looking over his stats and given the scouting reports on him, he probably would have been the Orioles number two or three prospect on our list this season.
Mike Constanzo started this off season a member of the Phillies organization and now has seen himself as part of a package for closer Brad Lidge and Tejada. The 24-year old has a career .820 OPS in three seasons in the minor leagues including a .858 OPS in the Eastern League last season. The knock on Constanzo is that he's an awkward athlete who may end up at first base and that his bat may not be good enough for major league pitching. He's committed 59 errors at third base over the last two seasons and had a .917 fielding percentage last year when he committed 34 miscues. He's similar to Scott Moore, but his upside potential is probably a little higher. He'll probably start the year at Norfolk next year but along with Nolan Reimold and Moore, he becomes one of the better power bats in the upper level of the organization.
Matt Albers is an interesting guy. He entered last year as Baseball America's number three prospect for the Astros. One scout told me that he thought Albers could be a first class setup guy right now and that it may be his best role in the majors. With a fastball that sits in the 92-95 range as a starter, the scout believed Albers could sit in the mid-90s as a reliever. Although his ceiling was once thought of as a 3rd starter, his ability to get ground ball outs could mean a successful conversion into that middle relief role, ala Mike Timlin. It'll be interesting to see if the Orioles put him in the Norfolk rotation next year, give him a shot at their rotation in the spring, or move him to the pen to fill a needed bullpen slot.
The six-foot-four, 220 pound Dennis Sarfate was built for relief although he struggled a bit last season in his new role until getting a promotion to Houston late in the year. In seven relief appearances out of the Astros pen last year the 26-year old struck out 14 in 8.1 innings while putting up a 1.04 ERA. With a fastball that gets into the high 90s at times, Sarfate should get every opportunity to make the O's pen in 2008.
So if I look at this, the Orioles picked up a productive left fielder, a young left-handed starter, two possible power bullpen arms, and a decent power bat in the upper minors who could still develop into a solid corner infielder/DH. Not too bad for an aging shortstop who's power numbers have decreased three straight years and guy who did not want to be part of a rebuilding process. Although Patton and Scott would appear to be the top parts of this trade, the Orioles added interesting parts in the other three players and improved the depth on the major league club and the system.
Props to Andy MacPhail on this trade.