Former Baltimore Orioles general manager Andy MacPhail has constructed a large part of the current Orioles team. However, it’s one move that MacPhail completed that may shape the Orioles for years to come.
On February 8th, 2008 MacPhail announced that the Orioles traded their best starter for a plethora of young prospects and a left handed reliever. The official trade was as follows: Seattle Mariners received Erik Bedard and the Orioles received center fielder Adam Jones, veteran reliever George Sherrill, and young pitchers Chris Tillman, Kam Mickolio, and Tony Butler.
Even at the time of the trade, without knowing how the young players the Orioles received would pan out, MacPhail was praised for receiving five players in return for Bedard.
Bedard was coming off his best season at 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA in 28 starts. A simple rule among baseball general managers, sell high and buy low. Bedard was coming off his best major league season. He had great stuff and was on the verge of becoming a major league ace for years to come if he could stay healthy. The Orioles had nothing to lose by trading him away. They were trying to rebuild and Bedard was injury prone. If MacPhail was going to trade Bedard he had to do it when he did. Even with a healthy Bedard having his best season, the idea that MacPhail could get five players (four of them legitimate prospects) from the Mariners seemed unlikely. It happened. So did, Jones and Tillman.
Here we are in 2012 and Bedard has been passed around baseball more than Kim Kardashian at a professional athletes convention. Still capable of putting up some quality starts Bedard never materialized into the ace he once showed promise of being. The Mariners knew the risk with Bedard. He had a wealth of talent, but injury concerns. Bedard has pitched very well at times, but he can never be relied on to give your team 30 starts. On August 28th of this season, Bedard was released by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Mickolio and Butler never panned out with the Orioles. The 6’7 left hander Butler is currently pitching for the Laredo Lemurs in the minors. The big right hander Mickolio, was a part of the trade that acquired Mark Reynolds from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Mickolio has since been sold to the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan.
Orioles fans all know how Jones panned out. He was thought to be a potential 5 tool center fielder. He has lived up to those expectations. Jones has since become an All-Star and gold glove center fielder who the Orioles have been built around. Current general manager Dan Duquette signed Jones to a 6 year $85 million contract extension making him an Oriole for a long time. Jones has also just been named the most valuable Oriole (MVO) for 2012. This is the second consecutive season Jones has won the award. It isn’t often a young player lives up to all his expectations and the Orioles know that all too well. Jones has lived up to all the hype.
Tillman was a wild-card in the Bedard trade. The Orioles already got the better of the deal with just Jones, but Tillman was thought to be a potential top of the rotation starter. He is still only 24-years-old but has had numerous opportunities to prove himself at the major league level. Up until this season, Tillman looked like he would never pan out. Since being called up in July of this season, Tillman has been the Orioles best starter. In 14 starts this season, Tillman is 9-2 with a 2.78 ERA. Tillman looks like a different pitcher this season. Tillman looks like a future top of the rotation starter. The jury is still out on Tillman, but he already has become a big part of the Orioles success this season. The Orioles could end up with an All-Star center fielder and top of the rotation starter from the Bedard trade.
Sherrill went from being a great left handed reliever with the Mariners to a great closer for the Orioles. He was an All-Star closer for the Orioles in 2008, then pitched great for half the season in Baltimore in 2009 before MacPhail once again traded high and sent Sherrill to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prospects Josh Bell and Steve Johnson.
Sherrill actually signed with the Mariners this past off-season, but is out for the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Bell never panned out for the Orioles and is currently in the Diamondbacks organization. Johnson meanwhile, is the third player in this amazing trade to help the Orioles in their 2012 playoff run. Johnson spent most of the season at Triple-A, but since being called up he has pitched in 12 games, starting in four. Johnson has been fantastic going 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA. Johnson doesn’t have the same upside that Tillman has, but he could find himself in the Orioles rotation for years to come.
In a trade that was thought to be lopsided from the beginning, it’s looking even more lopsided now in the Orioles favor. MacPhail deserves some serious kudos for pulling off one of the better trades in Orioles history. They now find themselves with their first winning season in over 14 years and a couple players to build their team around. Thank you MacPhail. Christmas has come early this year.