C Ramon Hernandez traded for IF/OF Ryan Freel and 2 prospects
Hernandez was aging poorly; his arm was not what it used to be and he was extremely slow on the base paths. I once saw him hit a grounder that bounced off the diving shortstop's glove. The shortstop slowly got up from the ground, stumbled over to the ball, picked it up, made an off-balance throw, and still got Hernandez out by at least a step. He was a good player, but overpaid, injury prone, and blocking the path of upcoming star Matt Wieters. Freel has the right type of mentality for a young Orioles team. He hustles and uses his athleticism in every aspect of the game, reminding me a lot of David Newhan. He will be a solid backup and the two prospects add infield depth to the Oriole organization. Justin Turner may be Brian Roberts' eventual replacement.
SS Cesar Izturis signed to a 2 year deal
Last year we watched Luis Hernanez, Brandon Fahey, Freddie Bynum, Alex Cintron, and Juan Castro hit less than .225 with less than 5 home runs. Izturis is no superstar, but he is an excellent defensive player and will provide stability at a position where there was none last year. Even if he hits .260, he will be a huge upgrade. He also has the ability to steal 20-30 bases.
LHP Mark Hendrickson signed to a 1 year deal
Hendrickson is not the type of player to get excited about. He is strictl a consistent innings eater, whether it's in the rotation or the bullpen. The Orioles were smart in only signing him to a one year deal. It made sense at the time, but with the additions of other, younger pitchers, Hendrickson has becme a veteran with no future on the the team and no reason to be on it. Unfortunately, he will make the team and keep a more promising player from getting a chance.
RHP Koji Uehara signed to a 2 year deal
It didn't make much sense to me for a rebuilding team to sign a 34-year old who spent part of last season in the Japanese minor leagues and only throws 85 miles per hour. The only potential upside is that he could surprise Major League hitters and also open up Japan as a future O's market.
LHP Garrett Olson and prospect traded for OF Felix Pie
The O's may have given up on Olson too quickly (see John Maine), and it didn't make sense to add another outfielder when they already had Luke Scott, Adam Jones, and Nick Markakis. But Olson upset the team when he called his '08 season a success a success, even though he finished with an ERA above 6. In all likelihood, he is a 4th or 5th starter at best, and the prospect the O's gaveup was not considered an impact pitcher. Pie was once considered one of the top prospects in the game, but performed poorly in brief stints with the Cubs, who may be giving up on him too early as well. He should give the Orioles one of the best outfields in the AL for many years and allow Scott to move to DH. The O's quickly replaced Olson with other young pitchers, making this deal a good one. Plus a friend and I wrote Garrett Olson a letter. We figured he would be upset that he keeps getting traded, but we believe in him.
RHP Randor Bierd traded for RHP David Pauley
Bierd was a Rule 5 pick who dominated in the bullpen last year until he was messed up by injuries and finished poorly. The Orioles may someday regret letting him go. Pauley has pitched well in the minors and provides the O's with a young option for the back of the rotation. He is similar to Jeremy Guthrie in that he was discarded by the Indians after he failed to live up to expectations. He is also similar in that he has no options left, which means that if he doesn't make the Orioles, he will likely be lost to another team. The O's should give him a shot, but may have trapped themselves with the additions of Hendrickson and Uehara. If he doesn't make the team, they will have wasted a potential set-up man in Bierd.
C Greg Zaun signed to a 1 year deal
Zaun will likely be the starter until Wieters is ready and then will become his backup and mentor. He understands his role and should be a welcome addition.
Player to be Named traded for LHP Rich Hill
Hill had a breakout year in '07, had one out of control season, and was let go by the Cubs. But even last year with his control problems, his ERA was 4.12, which shows his stuff is still very good. If he regains his command, he will be an excellent number 2 or 3 starter and the Orioles will give up a good prospect. If he remains wild and doesn't make the team, the O's will give up a no-name prospect. Either way, this deal was worth it.
INF Ty Wigginton signed to a 2 year deal
Wigginton has hit well the last three seasons and is a good player. He has the ability to hit .280-.290 with 20-25 home runs. But he is 31 years old and the Orioles already have Ryan Freel. The Orioles are now stuck with Wigginton for two years, when they really should have given an opportunity to Scott Moore and Lou Montanez. This move reminds me of the Jay Payton signing a few years ago.