Miguel Tejada Traded to Houston Astros

Yet another busy day in baseball: Tejada was traded from the Baltimore Orioles to the Houston Astros for five players (the Orioles got outfielder Luke Scott, pitchers Matt Albers, Troy Patton and Dennis Sarfate, and third baseman Michael Costanzo) on Wednesday.

Miguel Tejada finally gets his wish to get traded, although that wish has occurred about two years after he made his declaration that he was unhappy with the Orioles. The Orioles, who play in the AL East, can never live up to the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.

Said Tejada, “I feel very happy with this trade, because it’s something that I’ve been really looking forward to.” Houston general manager Ed Wade said the Astros couldn’t pass up the opportunity to add Tejada, “The reality is when you are talking about a player of this magnitude, you have to go in with every expectation that the asking price is going to be very high and if you want to participate, it’s going to be tough.”

Tejada is coming off his worst season in the majors. In 2007, he had a 0.296 batting average, dinging just 18 homers and producing 81 RBIs in a span of 514 at-bats in 133 games. In June of 2007, Miguel Tejada was placed on a 15-day disabled list (when Tejada was hit by a pitch by Doug Brocail, whom, incidentally, the Astros signed as a free agent on November 27; talk about building-up trust in the clubhouse, huh?), thus ending his streak of consecutive games played at 1,152, the fifth-longest in MLB history.

For his career in 11 seasons, Tejada has hit 0.287 with 258 home runs and 1,033 RBIs. His home run total ranks him fourth all-time among shortstops.

Tejada is 31, and the Orioles were worried about his range at shortstop. He had resisted their efforts to move him over to third base. So he got traded instead. Actually, this trade shouldn’t be too surprising. According to Astros president of baseball operations, “We’ve talked to Baltimore off and on for two years about Tejada…Certainly in 2006. It’s sort of ongoing. Baltimore’s had a change in their administration with Andy MacPhail, and I think Baltimore has wanted to change the composition of their club. We had a lot of conversations [before]. I don’t know how you quantify close. Baltimore just elected at that time not to move him.”

Wade said while Tejada may not cover quite as much ground as he once did, the Astros are confident he’ll be solid at shortstop. Adam Everett, Houston’s shortstop this season, will become an unrestricted free agent by Thursday.

Tejada said he figures he’ll adjust easily to the National League, and that the cozy ballpark dimensions in Houston will benefit him. Expect Tejada to produce in hitter-friendly Minute Maid Park. Tejada himself was confident: “I was in Houston last week and I’ve played in Minute Maid Park in the All-Star game, so I think I’ll do great in that city.”

Tejada is not only good on offense, but he’s a solid defender as well. If you take a look at the ESPN Zone ratings for shortstops, you will find that Tejada ranked second in the AL in 2007 (ahead of Orlanda Cabrera, a 2007 Gold Glove Award winner) and fourth in the AL in 2006. Tejada has consistently been a better defender than, for instance, Derek Jeter.

It seems like the Astros are following in the footsteps of the Detroit Tigers, who earlier this month acquired Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins in an eight-player trade. The Astros’ focus seems to be the immediate future. The Astros ballclub has a wealth of talent in Roy Oswalt, Carlos Lee, and Lance Berkman. However, their farm system is pretty weak.

Where will Miguel Tejada bat in the lineup? Well, earlier this month, the Astros finalized their $16.5 million, three-year contract with free-agent second baseman Kaz Matsui, who’s expected to bat second behind new leadoff man Michael Bourn, acquired in November as part of a trade that sent reliever Brad Lidge to Philadelphia. Batting third will be Miguel Tejada, followed by clean-up hitter Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee batting fifth, followed by rookie-phenom Hunter Pence batting sixth. Finishing the lineup would be Ty Wigginton at third base and J.R. Towles behind the plate. It’s interesting to note that Berkman and Lee are the only two players in that projected lineup who started Opening Day 2007 for the Astros.

Wade had a bit more to say about his new Astros team. Wade went on to talk about rebuilding and addressing the critics about going “backward” and “rebuilding.” Said Wade, “From the first interview I went through here it was never portrayed that I was inheriting a rebuilding structure. This isn’t a club to me that was in position to have to rebuild. You’ve got a No. 1 starter [Oswalt], a middle of the lineup with Berkman and Lee, young players like Pence and Towles…I know there’s been talk that his [Tejada’s] range has gone backward. I had a chance to see Miguel play in my role as a Padres scout the last two years. His range wasn’t what it was four or five years ago. But he’s got great hands, a good arm, turns the double play well and with he and Matsui around the bag at second base, I believe we’ve got a good double-play combination.”

What of the players that the Orioles got in the trade? Scott, 29, hit 0.255 with 18 homers and 64 RBIs as Houston’s regular right fielder. Albers, a 24-year-old righty, went 4-11 with a 5.86 ERA. Patton, a 22-year-old lefty, made his major league debut this season. Sarfate, a 26-year-old righty, was 1-0 in seven relief appearances. Costanzo, 24, was acquired from Philadelphia in the deal that also brought Bourn. He hit 27 home runs in Double-A this season. The Orioles will assign him to the minors.

You can look at both positives and negatives of this trade. The Astros want to improve tomorrow, while the Orioles are playing the numbers game for the future. “That’s one of the concepts behind, in this position, obtaining five players in exchange for one,” Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. “Nobody knows for certain how these young players are going to evolve, but if you get five you start playing the percentages, quite honestly.”

At least Wade was honest in his assessment of this trade. Said Wade, “Obviously, the price of the deal is high, a little painful. We gave up some significant pitching in this deal. If you’re going to bring in a player of this caliber, you’ve got to pay the price for it.” It remains to be seen whether the Astros will be contenders in the NL Central (or playoff contenders) in 2008.

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~ by mlb2007playoffs on December 12, 2007.

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