Orioles keep rebuilding, acquire veteran pitcher Millwood

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 10, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS -- When Andy MacPhail took over the Baltimore Orioles' baseball operations in June 2007, the Orioles were a broken-down classic Cadillac, rusted out and sitting up on blocks in a former train yard just west of Baltimore's Inner Harbor. In the ensuing months, he has rebuilt it lovingly, part by part, into something that, one day, just might run again. And on Wednesday afternoon, MacPhail stuck a pretty new grille on his baby.

In a trade that came together quickly, the Orioles acquired veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood from the Texas Rangers for right-handed reliever Chris Ray and a player the Orioles will select on the Rangers' behalf in Thursday morning's Rule 5 draft. The Rangers also kicked in about $3 million to offset the $12 million owed to Millwood in the final year of his contract.

"He really fit the bill of what we were looking for," MacPhail said in the Orioles' suite at baseball's winter meetings. "We were looking for a veteran starter with good makeup to do the role he did last year for the Rangers -- he took some of the weight and burden off the rest of the starters by taking his starts."

MacPhail called Millwood, 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA in 2009, the new No. 1 starter for a rotation that is expected to include at least three pitchers -- right-handers Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen and lefty Brian Matusz -- under the age of 24. Millwood, who turns 35 later this month, is 155-121 lifetime with a 4.02 ERA and seven seasons of 190 or more innings pitched in 12 full big league seasons.

Though the Orioles have Millwood under contract for only one season, MacPhail sounded open to an extension -- but also to the notion of collecting draft picks should Millwood walk away a year from now. With the young pitching the Orioles have coming, they felt they didn't need a long-term commitment.

"We feel like we've got some young pitching coming up," MacPhail said, "even beyond the young pitching that showed itself this past year."

In only 29 months, MacPhail has taken a sledgehammer to a roster that now -- following the release of Melvin Mora last month and Wednesday's trade of Ray -- includes just two players, second baseman Brian Roberts and right fielder Nick Markakis, who were with the team at the end of the 2006 season.

Included in his overhaul were the monumental trades during the 2007-08 offseason of all-star shortstop Miguel Tejada and ace lefty Erik Bedard -- which, combined, brought a haul of 10 young players, mostly pitchers, and significantly sped up the team's rebuilding process.

While MacPhail's two full seasons in Baltimore have produced the first back-to-back last-place finishes in the franchise's 55-year history, the organization measured progress by the emergences and breakthroughs, one by one, of a parade of young impact players -- catcher Matt Wieters, left fielder Nolan Reimold, center fielder Adam Jones, outfielder FĂ©lix Pie, and pitchers Bergesen, Tillman and Matusz.

"I'm very happy with the amount of talent that is moving up through the organization, whether it was there before, or has come after," MacPhail said. "I'm not as pleased that our wins really haven't moved much at all. . . . We want to surround these kids with some quality major league players who can help them learn what it is to win in the American League East."

Winter meetings notes: While the New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Detroit Tigers made official the seven-player swap that sends center fielder Curtis Granderson to the Bronx, it is increasingly apparent the meetings will end Thursday without another major deal or signing being consummated.

None of the top free agents, pitcher John Lackey and outfielders Jason Bay and Matt Holliday, appears close to signing, and the Toronto Blue Jays' pursuit of a trade destination for ace right-hander Roy Halladay has engendered plenty of intrigue -- particularly in regards to the Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies -- but few hard developments. . . .

Scott Boras, the agent for Holliday, said he has had only "philosophical" discussions with the St. Louis Cardinals, but on Wednesday linked the potential re-signing of Holliday to the future of Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols, whose contract expires at the end of 2011.

"I think [Pujols's] chances of staying in St. Louis are greater if he has someone hitting behind him like Matt Holliday," Boras said. "This is a pivotal decision for them to determine whether or not they're going to be at the level of competitors they were at the end of '09."

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