Orioles to bring back Tejada

Sources: Club reaches agreement on 1-year, $6 million deal with free agent

January 23, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec | Baltimore Sun reporter

More than two years after Miguel Tejada was traded to the Houston Astros for five players to start a massive rebuilding project, he will return to the Orioles with a lot less fanfare and at a different position.

In a somewhat surprising move that goes against several of Andy MacPhail's tendencies, the Orioles agreed to terms Saturday on a one-year, $6 million deal with Tejada to be the team's regular third baseman, a role that he's never filled in his 13-year big league career.

The deal won't be complete until Tejada passes a physical, which is scheduled for Tuesday. MacPhail, the Orioles' president of baseball operations, didn't deny an agreement had been reached when he was asked about Tejada on Saturday during a forum at FanFest at the Baltimore Convention Center, but he wouldn't comment further.

"We don't have anything finalized yet, but we're pretty confident that we'll have something in a matter of days," MacPhail told reporters.

Tejada, who played shortstop with the Orioles from 2004 to 2007, confirmed to an Associated Press reporter from the Dominican Republic and to an ESPNdeportes.com reporter that he had reached a deal to return to the club that gave him a six-year, $72 million deal in December 2003 and then traded him four years later to the Astros for pitchers Matt Albers, Dennis Sarfate and Troy Patton, outfielder Luke Scott and minor league third baseman Mike Constanzo.

"I am happy to return to Baltimore, it's like my home," Tejada told ESPNdeportes.com. "We have great young talent, and I think many good things could happen with the club in 2010."

Tejada, 35, had a highly productive, yet controversy-filled four-year run with the Orioles, bashing 87 home runs, driving in 348 runs and hitting over .300 in his first three seasons with the club. However, his Orioles' tenure was marred by some off-the-field issues and four losing seasons. Both factors clearly wore on Tejada, who requested a trade before the 2006 season due to his frustration with the direction of the club.

Two years later, he was eventually granted his wish by MacPhail just one day before he was named in the Mitchell Report -- an investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball -- because Adam Piatt, his former Oakland Athletics teammate, told investigators that he supplied the shortstop with testosterone and human growth hormone in 2003.

For much of the offseason, MacPhail had downplayed the possibility of reacquiring Tejada, who hit .313 with 14 homers and 86 RBIs and notched 199 hits for the Astros last season, making the National League All-Star team for a second straight year.

However, with a vacancy at third base and the Orioles in need of both a dangerous right-handed bat and some leadership in the clubhouse, the idea of adding Tejada made more and more sense to MacPhail. It became an even more realistic option when Tejada's asking price -- and the Orioles' other third base options -- dropped significantly. Wanting to use Garrett Atkins at first base, the Orioles only other free-agent option beyond Tejada was the injury-prone Joe Crede.

"I don't know how realistic I thought our potential acquisition was going to be," MacPhail said. "We always had him on the board, but I wasn't holding my breath. But we'll be pleased, I think, with the way things work out."

Before talks intensified between MacPhail and Tejada's agent, Diego Bentz, MacPhail had spoken to hitting coach Terry Crowley and second baseman Brian Roberts, both of whom gave glowing recommendations of Tejada. Orioles manager Dave Trembley also said that he'd welcome the player's return.

Said Trembley: "The best thing that Tejada brings is he wants to win. He's got the passion for it, he's respected by his teammates, and I think he will make a smooth transition to third. He'll have the whole spring training to do it."

Crowley agreed and said, "I'd be so psyched to have him on our team. He's a tremendous guy and a tremendous influence in the clubhouse. I'd be hard pressed to think of many ballplayers that I've ever had the pleasure to coach that were better than him when he played here."

While Trembley and Crowley said that that they weren't surprised that MacPhail was seriously considering Tejada, most other people were.

MacPhail has long made known his desire to stay away from signing former Orioles, believing that went against his message to fans that the organization was moving forward.

He also talks regularly about the importance of surrounding his young pitching staff with a strong defense. The addition of Tejada -- whose only extensive experience at third base came during last year's World Baseball Classic -- and the presence of Atkins at first base, give the Orioles two question marks defensively.

While Tejada told ESPNdeportes that he has been preparing to play third base since the end of the 2009 season, MacPhail acknowledged that "any position change anybody makes, you just don't know for certain until they get there."

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