Rangers Deal From Excess To Add Uehara To Bullpen

The Deal
The Rangers’ familiarity with Japanese professional baseball probably helped with the 2011 trade deadline pickup of righthander Koji Uehara from the Orioles. Texas signed Colby Lewis out of Japan for the 2010 season (he picked up the club’s lone victory in the World Series) and 35-year-old righty reliever Toshinori Tateyama for this season (23 games, 25-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 0.96 WHIP).

In exchange for Uehara, the Rangers gave up righthander Tommy Hunter and first baseman Chris Davis, two young players who are no longer
prospects but also have yet to establish themselves at the major league
level. Hunter reached the majors in 2008, about a year after being drafted, and has had more success than Davis. That includes last season, when he went 13-4, 3.73 while leading the American League with a .765 winning percentage. He even started Game Four of the World Series. The Orioles kicked in $2 million to apply toward Uehara’s 2012 option.

 
Orioles Acquire
Chris Davis, 3b/1b

Age: 25. Position: 3B (34 G), 1B (15 G), LF (14 G).

Born: March 17, 1986 in Longview, Texas.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 230. Bats: L. Throws: R.

School: Navarro (Texas) JC.

Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in fifth round of 2006 draft; signed June 9, 2006.

Club (League) Class AVG G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG
Round Rock (PCL) AAA .368 48 193 39 71 14 1 24 66 11 58 1 .405 .824
Texas (AL) MLB .250 27 72 9 18 2 0 3 6 5 23 0 .299 .403

Davis failed to establish himself in Arlington after 949 big league plate appearances in parts of four seasons. He slugged and 42 home runs in that time, showcasing plus power, but on the flip side of the coin he compiled a 64-to-301 walk-to-strikeout ratio and .300 on-base percentage. Davis’ best year was his rookie season of 2008, when he ripped 17 homers in 295 at-bats and hit .285/.331/.549. He’s a dead low-ball hitter, which pitchers have figured out while Davis continues to struggle to adjust. He has improved defensively at third base and can play either infield corner but is better suited defensively to first, despite good arm strength. Scouting reports on him at third base regularly include the word “adequate.”

Edged out for playing time in Texas by the more consistent Mitch Moreland, Davis has mashed this season in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, batting .368/.405/.824 with 24 home runs in just 193 at-bats. (He hit .327 in the PCL last year to finish second in the batting race.) Still, Davis lacks plate discipline and figures to remain a streaky hitter prone to slumps and short bursts where he’s a force—in other words, a lefthanded-hitting Mark Reynolds. His acquisition could make veteran Derrek Lee expendable for Baltimore. The Rangers used Davis’ third and final minor league option to send him to Round Rock this season, so the Orioles will have to keep him in the big leagues in 2012 or risk losing him on waivers.

 
Tommy Hunter, rhp

Age: 25.

Born: July 3, 1986 in Indianapolis.

Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 280. Bats: R. Throws: R.

School: Alabama.

Career Transactions: Selected by Rangers in supplemental first round (54th overall) of 2007 draft; signed July 16, 2007.

Club (League) Class W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Frisco (TL) AA 0 0 4.50 1 0 0 3 3 2 2 1 1 5 1.00
Round Rock (PCL) AAA 2 2 5.06 8 5 1 26.2 37 17 15 2

3 16 1.50
Texas (AL) MLB 1 1 2.93 8 0 0 15.1 12 6 5 1 5 10 1.11

Forecast as a durable innings-eater due to his massive 6-foot-3, 280-pound frame, Hunter has exceeded 180 innings only once, in 2009, if you combine major and minor league time. He spent all of April on the disabled list after straining his right groin in spring training and then aggravated the injury in a May rehab start. Once Hunter returned to the big leagues this season, he was limited to a relief role thanks to the Rangers’ improved rotation depth. He figures to work into the Orioles’ rotation sooner than later. At his best, Hunter has a low-90s fastball with natural cutting movement that’s his best pitch. The Alabama alumnus also throws a firm changeup, power slider and mid-70s curveball. In all likelihood, Hunter will qualify for a fourth option year in 2012 because he collected minor league time this season while on major league rehab.

 
Rangers Acquire
Koji Uehara, rhp

Age: 36. Remaining Commitment: Approximately $1 million ($3 million salary for 2011, plus $4 million option for 2012 that vests after 55 games or 25 games finished in 2011; Orioles sent $2 million).

Contract details courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

Club (League) YEAR W L ERA G GS SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP
Baltimore (AL) 2011 1 1 1.72 43 0 0 47 25 9 9 6 8 62 0.70
Career Totals 4 7 3.03 98 12 13 157.2 133 57 53 18 25 165 1.00

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