-- The Baltimore Orioles acquired right-handed reliever Jason Grimsley in a trade with the Kansas City Royals late Monday night. By giving up highly regarded pitching prospect Denny Bautista in return, the Orioles signaled their continued resolve for the 2004 season, despite entering a three-game series with the New York Yankees on Tuesday night 14 games out of first place.
Grimsley, who will turn 37 in August, is 3-3 with a 3.38 ERA in 32 appearances this season for the Royals, and 38-50 with a 4.76 ERA in parts of 13 major league seasons. As part of the deal, the Orioles agreed to a contract extension with Grimsley through 2005.
In exchange for Grimsley, the Orioles gave up Class AA Bowie right-hander Bautista, who was considered one of the organization's top pitching prospects until a disastrous two-game stint with the big league team last month, which resulted in a 36.00 ERA and a quick return to Bowie.
"Something like this is part of getting better, and we're not just satisfied with making the team better for next year," said Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Beattie. "We want to get better this year. I think this is going to demonstrate to our players that we're going to go out there and do all we can."
The move signals the team's diminishing faith in struggling right-hander Mike DeJean and most likely signals Rodrigo Lopez's return to the starting rotation.
Grimsley is expected to assume the role as top right-handed set-up man in the Orioles' bullpen, a role that belonged to DeJean. DeJean has confounded team officials with his ineffectiveness, which is borne out by an 0-5 record and 6.91 ERA.
Grimsley, on the other hand, has been exceptionally effective against right-handed hitters this season, holding them to a .173 average.
The move also frees Lopez to return to the Orioles' rotation, replacing lefty Eric DuBose, who was placed on the disabled list Sunday with elbow soreness and who may need arthroscopic surgery. Lopez was critical of the Orioles' decision to move him from the rotation to the bullpen last week -- a decision that was made largely because of the lack of right-handed options in the bullpen.
The Royals are in the beginning stages of a large-scale salary dump that could see all-star center fielder Carlos Beltran traded this summer. While Grimsley -- who was traded by the Philadelphia Phillies to the Houston Astros straight up for Curt Schilling in 1992 -- makes only $1 million this season, he was an outspoken critic of the Royals' recent move toward cost-cutting; he threw a chair in the clubhouse when the team released reliever Curtis Leskanic, and told reporters, "This place [stinks]."
Bautista, who will turn 24 in August, was acquired at last July's trade deadline from the Florida Marlins for veteran hitter Jeff Conine, a trade that at the time was considered a coup for the Orioles' front office.
Bautista, a cousin of Boston Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez, was 3-5 with a 4.74 ERA in his two stints with Bowie.
"You give up a great, young, talented pitcher," Beattie said. "But we have some depth there."