Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Ramon Hernandez Traded for OF Ryan Freel, Two Minor Leaguers

Okay, so this went down last night and though we do our best to give you news as the Sun and Roch Kobatko break it, 12 hours isn't too bad, is it?  ATH may be going on hiatus until Friday or Saturday as Windsor and Falco are buried (I called them to get a Hernandez post up and I am pretty sure I heard a death rattle), and I am in the process of moving so internet access will be sporadic.

However, yesterday evening was the official start of year 2 of the MacPhail housecleaning project, ejecting a demoralized and overpaid Ramon Hernandez for a less expensive 4th outfielder and two minor league prospects.  I will leave the prospects for one of Windsor's reports, but they are generously considered "mid-level".  Based on their statistics, where they were drafted and how old they are, they look to be promising role players who might get to the 
major league level but were mostly thrown in because, well, MacPhail wants to fill up this farm system with as many bodies as possible to see who pans out.  It is great to see that both of the prospects, 22 year old Brandon Waring and 24 year old Justin Turner are both infielders at third base and second base, respectively.  The Orioles need to make sure they have a decent pipeline of talent there with a glut of outfielders in the system (comparatively).

This trade was still about Hernandez and Freel.  Ramon was not going to be happy giving up time this season for Matt Wieters, and his play this season was an obvious sign that he wanted to leave.  He knew he was going to go, it was just going to depend on when and how- released or traded, he was not going to sit behind Wieters.  I don't blame him on that, but the Reds are not trading for him to get his .257 average or .308 on base percentage.  They got him hoping that in a new uniform he might return to the form he had in San Diego, where not only was his offense up, but he showed a lot better defense and hustle.  Those qualities are about effort, and after the Matt Wieters watch began, he just didn't have it.

Ryan Freel is intriguing.  At first I wondered why the Orioles would sign another outfielder when the bench is already full of young talent- Montanez, Reimold, Jones, Markakis (with Scott already out there), but on further review it might make sense.  Freel is not a home run hitter like Scott, he would be a good change of pace when we need to get a man on base.  Freel also brings significantly more speed than Scott, and has consistently batted around .270 every season he has been in the majors- Baltimore needs some consistency like that in the batting order, too many hot and cold streaks have killed the offense.  While the Orioles might have preferred to get a player at a greater position of need, Ryan Free provides a great platooning option for Scott.   There has even been talk of trying out Scott at first base, so that could be another way to use this move to Trembley's advantage.  

This move had to happen- Hernandez was going no matter what and it is great to see that MacPhail got something in return.  In this market it should be considered a huge success that the O's got prospects and a major league position player in return and only have to eat $2 million in salary for next year.  Good luck Ramon, and good job Andy.

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