INDIANAPOLIS — - Fulfilling their quest to plug in a proven veteran at the top of their rotation, the Orioles on Wednesday acquired right-hander Kevin Millwood from the Texas Rangers for reliever Chris Ray and a player to be named.
The Orioles will also receive approximately $3 million in cash to offset the $12 million that Millwood is owed in 2010, the final year on his contract. The player to be named will not be a significant member of the team's major league roster or a well-regarded prospect.
Millwood, who turns 35 this month, has a 155-121 record and a 4.02 ERA in 383 career appearances over parts of 13 seasons in the big leagues. He went 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA in 31 starts spanning 198 2/3 innings in 2009.
"For us, it's likely that he's going to be the first starter, and we think it's going to have a positive cascading effect on Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Brad Bergesen, Chris Tillman, David Hernandez and Jason Berken," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "They use the term 'anchor your staff.' It doesn't mean we're out of the pitching business by any stretch, but it is the main thing that we wanted to accomplish."
MacPhail, who had repeatedly downplayed his team's chances of making a move during the winter meetings, acknowledged that he was surprised to be able to land Millwood, especially because trade discussions with the Rangers never really intensified until the past couple of days.
But the Rangers were motivated to move Millwood and his salary in order to sign free-agent right-hander Rich Harden. Texas originally asked for pitcher Hernandez, according to sources, but the Orioles were reluctant to give up any young starters.
"I did not anticipate that we would be able to land a starter first. I came into these meetings thinking we had a better chance to fill one of the corner-infield spots, but it worked out 180 degrees from the way I thought it would," MacPhail said. "Our first priority was trying to get that 200-inning guy to take some of the weight off our kids and get the right guy in terms of helping our kids make the adjustments to the major leagues. Everything we heard about Millwood could not have been a better fit for that role.
Millwood, a North Carolina native, said he has a limited no-trade clause that allowed him to veto a deal to 12 teams, but the Orioles were not on that list. A one-time All-Star, Millwood started his career in Atlanta and will pitch for his fifth team. He said he was looking forward to pitching in the American League East and relished the opportunity to serve as a mentor to a young pitching staff, a role he also occupied for the Rangers the past couple of seasons.
"I think it's a lot of fun. It's nice to be able to fix some of the things that I've learned in the past, to try to hand it down to some of the younger guys," said Millwood, who has started 30 or more games four of the past five seasons and averaged just under 31 starts over his 12 full seasons in a big league rotation. "It makes it all worthwhile when guys start to do what you tell them and it works out for them.
"I'm definitely not going to walk into spring training right away and start telling people what I think is right and what I think is wrong. Once I get to know guys and kind of find my way around a little bit, I'm sure that if there are things I see that aren't quite right, I won't have a problem bringing that up to a guy one-on-one."
Millwood spoke to MacPhail and Orioles manager Dave Trembley on Wednesday afternoon just before the completion of the trade was announced. Though he said he had heard some of the rumors, he acknowledged that he was a little surprised the trade went through. Trembley, meanwhile, was grinning ear-to-ear when he met with reporters Wednesday evening.
"He's going to be the anchor of the staff, and he allows the other guys to be slotted into the position that will allow them to be better," Trembley said. "He'll be a guy that comes here with a proven track record, a lot of experience, a guy that we'll be able to count on every fifth day. Our younger guys will be able to learn from him, but I think our younger guys will now be in a position where they'll be able to succeed more."
MacPhail said it was tough for the club to deal Ray, a 27-year-old who worked his way up through the organization's system to become the team's full-time closer in 2006, his first full year in the big leagues. That season, Ray, a hard-throwing right-hander with a funky delivery, compiled a 2.73 ERA and saved 33 games.
However, Ray's 2007 season ended early when he had ligament-reconstruction surgery on his right elbow, and after spending the 2008 season rehabilitating the injury, he struggled throughout 2009. Unable to find his arm slot, Ray posted a 7.27 ERA over 46 appearances, enduring stints both on the disabled list and in the minor leagues.
He received the news Wednesday that he might be traded from Guthrie while attending a team-sponsored holiday party for children. He said Wednesday night that he held no bitterness toward the Orioles.
"I have my whole career to be thankful to the Orioles," Ray said.
"They gave me a shot in the big leagues, and I appreciate the belief that they showed in me. I owe a lot to them. I know it's a business and they made a business decision."
2009 W-L ERA G IP SO BB13-10 3.67 31198 2/3 123 71
Career totals Years W-L ERA G IP SO BB13 155-121 4.02 383 2,314 1/3 1,808 714