Heath Bintliff: MacPhail’s trades shaped this winner

The Orioles are winning and new executive vice president Dan Duquette and his team are getting their fair share of credit for restoring some hope to a moribund franchise. They surely deserve it, as they were directly responsible for bringing starting pitchers Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen to Baltimore, as well as relievers Matt Lindstrom and Luis Ayala, who have helped to anchor a rejuvenated bullpen.

But Duquette did not have to blow up this team to achieve this early-season success. Former team president Andy MacPhail left him a pretty decent core to work with.

MacPhail was at the helm when Baltimore drafted Jake Arrieta, Brian Matusz and Xavier Avery. He also locked up Nick Markakis to a contract extension. His free agent signings - well, those generally did not work out so well.

But where MacPhail truly left his fingerprints on the Orioles was via his masterful trades. Here are the key ones:

J.J. Hardy (Orioles career - 6.2 WAR, 2012 - 1.4 WAR)

MacPhail sent minor league relievers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobsen to the Twins for Hardy before the 2011 season and Hardy rewarded the Orioles with one of the greatest seasons by any O’s shortstop (and that’s saying something). Hoey couldn’t find the plate for the Twins and was waived. Jacobsen (who was acquired in another MacPhail trade from the Tigers for Aubrey Huff) is still toiling in Double-A with little success. On top of this, MacPhail gave Orioles fans a fine parting gift by locking in Hardy to a reasonable extension before an offseason that saw lesser shortstops paid a ton of money.

Pedro Strop (Orioles career - 0.9 WAR, 2012 - 0.4 WAR)

Sending one of his free agent mistakes, Mike Gonzalez, to Texas would net the Orioles a player to be named. MacPhail was wise enough to have Pedro Strop’s name included among the players the Rangers made avaialble. While he does still have some control issues, Strop has emerged as a reliable setup man for Jim Johnson this season. Gonzalez is not currently playing for any team.

Tommy Hunter (Orioles career - 0.0 WAR, 2012 - -0.1 WAR) and Chris Davis (Orioles career - 0.3 WAR, 2012 - 0.3 WAR)

Koji Uehara has pitched very well for the Rangers, but the Orioles needed young players far more than they needed a closer, so off he went at the trading deadline. Davis may never be a star, but he is an above-average hitter at the worst and filled a gaping hole at first base. Hunter has not been good, but he was worth a flier and may still help the Orioles this season, whether he is starting or helping out from the bullpen.

Troy Patton (Orioles career - 0.4 WAR, 2012 - 0.0 WAR)

Patton is the last man standing from the five players the Orioles received from the Astros in the Miguel Tejada deal. He’s been injured a lot since he was acquired, but I was happy that he made the team this spring. He’s a versatile reliever who I believe will only get better with more major league innings under his belt.

Robert Andino (Orioles career - 2.9 WAR, 2012 - 0.6 WAR)

MacPhail sent pitcher Hayden Penn to the Marlins for Andino before the 2009 season. I still though Penn, apparently a failed starter, could still develop into a pretty good reliever. I was right - but he’s doing it in Japan instead. Andino was useful from the start, first as a utilty man and over he past two seasons as a capable, if not spectacular, fill-in at second base for the oft-injured Brian Roberts.

Adam Jones (Orioles career - 11.8 WAR, 2012 - 2.8 WAR)

The crown jewel of MacPhail’s dealings, Jones came over from Seattle in the Erik Bedard trade, took over as the starting center fielder and the rest has been history. Jones is having a breakout season and is the leader of this Orioles offense. Bedard continued to be Bedard, great when he was on the field, but mostly too hurt to make a difference.

Mark Reynolds (Orioles career - -0.2 WAR, 2012 - -0.5 WAR)

Reynolds was acquired for relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio (who was also acquired in the Erik Bedard trade) and the results have been mixed. Reynolds clubbed 37 homers last season, but has been so bad in the field that any of his good points as a hitter have been negated. Mickolio is pitching in Japan, but Hernandez has been very good for Arizona. The Orioles have probably lost this trade on relative value, but if the Orioles win this season, I can’t help but think that Reynolds will have a part in it. If the team can just limit his innings in the field, his bat could still prove valuable to a team regularly trotting out Wilson Betamit and Nick Johnson to DH.

Heath Bintliff blogs about the Orioles at Dempsey’s Army. His ruminations about the Birds appear as part of MASNsports.com’s season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our site. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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