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Trading Places: Uehara is Dealt to the Rangers
Dan Port | Saturday July 30th, 2011
Koji Uehara will solidify Texas' relief corps. (Icon SMI)
Koji Uehara will solidify Texas' relief corps. (Icon SMI)

With just over a day left before Major League Baseball's trade deadline, the Rangers bolstered their bullpen by dealing a pair of former prospects for reliever Koji Uehara.

In exchange for the 34 year-old righthander, the Orioles will receive longtime Rangers power-hitting third base/first base prospect Chris Davis and 25 year-old righty Tommy Hunter.  Uehara's $4 million option for 2012 vests after just another eight game appearances, so Texas will receive $2 million from the O's to cover half of that amount (source: MLB Trade Rumors).

Uehara came to MLB from Japan in 2009, and since then he has battled injuries but has been pretty effective when healthy and holds a 3.03 career ERA in 157 2/3 career innings (98 games, 12 starts).  This season, Uehara has been dominant in notching a 1.72 ERA with 62 strikeouts and just 25 hits allowed in 47 innings, good for a 0.70 WHIP.  He'll be expected to strengthen a talented but inconsistent Rangers bullpen.  Reigning American League Rookie of the Year Award winner Neftali Feliz will most likely retain his role as Texas' closer, but Uehara will join relievers Mark Lowe and Darren Oliver as Rangers setup men.  This move probably removes Texas from any trade to bring over San Diego closer Heath Bell , though it's possible the club may still seek additional bullpen arms.

In exchange for Uehara, the Orioles will receive Chris Davis and Tommy Hunter, a pair of 25 year-olds who were once high-profile prospects, but have suffered some pitfalls along the way.  Hunter has found some major league success and tallied 13 wins in just 23 games (22 starts) and posted a 3.73 ERA last season, but has seen his career derailed by injuries and bouts of ineffectiveness.  He struck out just 68 hitters in 128 innings of work in 2010 and has just a 5.1 strikeouts-per-nine-innings (K/9) rate in 266 1/3 big league innings.  This year, he has worked only as a reliever and has a 2.93 ERA in 15 1/3 major league innings.  He'll join the Orioles' young crop of pitchers and could be a nice addition, assuming health and consistency.

Chris Davis' career, on the other hand, has been stalled mainly by his inability to avoid strikeouts and make consistent contact at the major league level.  Davis has repeatedly shown dominance at the Triple-A level and, in 2011, he posted a .368 batting average and 24 home runs in just 48 games for Round Rock of the Pacific Coast League before joining the Rangers (for the third time this year) on July 23rd.  However, since an excellent 80 game big league debut in 2008 (where he hit .285 with 17 home runs), Davis has hit just .231 with 25 home runs and 208 strikeouts in 612 plate appearances.  His ability to hit excellently in the minor leagues yet struggle for the Rangers have led many to label Davis as a "Quad-A" player, but at just 25 years old, it's still possible that he will channel his massive power numbers into a big league career.  The Orioles are clearly hoping that a change of scenery may help expedite his progress.

From a fantasy standpoint, it's unclear whether any of the three players in this deal will gain or lose ground.  Uehara has value as a middle inning reliever, and it's likely he'll be pitching in more close victories now that he has joined a successful first place Rangers squad.  Davis and Hunter, on the other side, are not on many fantasy rosters right now, but their new team may decide to utilize them more than the Rangers did and, if they can perform well in increased roles, they may be worth some consideration in certain fantasy leagues.

Dan PortDan Port has been a writer and article editor for Baseball Press since the fall of 2009. He's a Wisconsin native and Los Angeles resident, as well as an aspiring novelist, moderately successful gambler, and avid craft beer aficionado. You can reach him at dan@baseballpress.com or check him out on Twitter @danport and at DanielPort.com.