The Orioles have a lot of rebuilding to do before they reach the playoffs. And obviously, players that are not part of the future of the club can be traded for prospects for the future. But some players bring a lot more value that what the stat sheet shows. And Gregg Zaun was one of those players.
This is not going to be a "Fire MacPhail" post or something accusing him of not knowing what he is going. I am a big believer in his quest to make the Orioles better. However, I do not agree with this move at all, as it is a demoralizer to the team and its fans.
Today, the Orioles traded Gregg Zaun, the backup catcher, to the Rays for a player to be named later or cash, according to the Baltimore Sun. To replace him, Chad Moeller is being brought back to the club from Norfolk and will backup Matt Wieters.
Zaun's stats are not overly impressive. In 56 games he is hitting .244 with four home runs and 13 RBI. At 38, he obviously is not part of the future. His contract had an option for 2010, and was making $1.5 million this season.
But his value went far beyond the box scores. Zaun was a veteran presence in the locker room. A catcher who had seen many years in this league and is hoping to be a coach one day. He calls a great game behind the plate. He has never complained about Matt Wieters taking his spot, and he has done many things to help the team get better and improve morale, from winning the Orioles Cook-Off to helping tutor Matt Wieters to learning some Japanese to help Koji Uehara on the mound. Not to mention it seems like Jeremy Guthrie is a much better pitcher with Zaun behind the plate. You can't put a price on someone like that.
He is a backup catcher, are the Orioles in such bad shape that they can't spend a little money to keep Zaun? Instead they have to trade him to a division rival for either a couple bucks or a minor leaguer with little potential? Then promote Chad Moeller, who is hitting barely over the Mendoza line in triple-A ball? Moeller was is not good at the plate, and when he was in Baltimore he was not a good signal caller, so he will not bring the mentoring that Zaun could.
The focus of the Orioles under MacPhail is to repair the minor league system and get the Orioles ready for the future. But, they still need to put a major league team on the field right now, and the one thing the front office is not doing well is trying to keep the morale of the team and its fans up. Players that are not a part of the future no matter how useful right now are being shipped away. Players like Kevin Millar and Gregg Zaun, who fully embrace their positions as backups and cheap players while still being great people in the clubhouse, are sent away for nothing. Sure Zaun is not part of the future, but isn't spending a little money for him worth it to the current squad?
Yes, the Orioles need to focus on the future. But not focusing on the present has its consequences too. We will miss you Gregg Zaun, and we wish you well in the rest of your playing days and future coaching career.
(Photo credit: ESPN)