Orioles trade Hernandez, Mickolio to Diamondbacks for Reynolds

Club acquires slugger to play third base, hit in middle of the order

December 06, 2010|By Jeff Zrebiec, The Baltimore Sun

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — — The Orioles knew all the drawbacks.

Mark Reynolds batted just .198 last season for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He has struck 200 times in each of the past three seasons, while no other player has done it once in the history of baseball. In 26 career games against American League East teams, including the Orioles, Reynolds is 10-for-67 (.149) with one homer, seven RBIs and 33 strikeouts.

However, the Orioles ultimately decided that those inadequacies were well worth adding his power to the middle of their order, and Monday they acquired the slugging third baseman from the Diamondbacks for relievers David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio.

"Obviously, we are delighted," Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail said. "We made no secret of the fact that we were looking to improve our offense this season. We don't think we are necessarily done, [but] we think Mark Reynolds definitely represents that."

Reynolds, a 27-year-old who is signed through 2012 with an option for 2013, has averaged 35 homers and 95 RBIs over the past three seasons and had 44 homers, 102 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 2009. Even during a disappointing 2010 season, Reynolds would have led the Orioles in homers (32), RBIs (85) and walks (83) and been tied with Nick Markakis for the team lead in runs (79).

"He brings some things that we don't have," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "I'm not dwelling. You can find negatives on every player. I understand where Mark's history is. We certainly like his contact-to-damage ratio. That's just something we don't have, and we were impressed by his improving defense and the work the organization in Arizona had done with him."

MacPhail and Arizona general manager Kevin Towers started talking about the trade about three weeks ago. Towers, who was hired by the Diamondbacks in September and is touted for his ability to build bullpens, was desperate to overhaul Arizona's relief corps. MacPhail, meanwhile, had a vacancy at third base, was not in on the Adrian Beltre sweepstakes and was having a hard time finding a right-handed power bat.

MacPhail, who is also trying to find a first baseman and a shortstop, has been reluctant to trade any of his young pitchers and acknowledged that it was a tough sell even with this deal.

"The currency that the Baltimore Orioles have that is the most valuable [players] are some of our young players and, in particular, some of our pitchers," he said. "It was becoming apparent to us that we were going to have to use that currency to get other things we needed."

Hernandez, a 25-year-old right-hander who was converted from a starter to a reliever this past season, went 8-8 with a 4.31 ERA in 41 appearances (eight starts) in 2010. As a reliever, he was 7-3 with a two saves, a 3.16 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 33 appearances. Some scouts project Hernandez, who has a mid-90s fastball and a hard curveball, as a potential closer.

"I'll have a chance to play closer to home, but I always thought I'd be in Baltimore for years to come," said Hernandez, a California native. "It just didn't work out that way. I'll miss all the friends I made there, the guys in the clubhouse. The organization did some good things for me. I thought I was part of the future there, but somebody has to go to make improvements. You can't keep everybody."

Mickolio, 26, also has closer-type stuff, but the 6-foot-9 right-hander has struggled with injuries and inconsistency. In 23 appearances with the Orioles over the past three seasons, Mickolio had a 4.32 ERA. However, he had an especially difficult 2010 season, compiling a 6.37 ERA in 30 appearances for Triple-A Norfolk and a 7.36 ERA in three outings for the Orioles.

While the Orioles filled their need at third base, the trade leaves them dangerously thin in the bullpen. They have only eight relievers on the 40-man roster, and six of them have had significant injuries over the past two years.

MacPhail has said the club is having conversations with multiple relievers, both on the trade and free-agent fronts. The Orioles are trying to re-sign Koji Uehara, and they have at least one offer out to a free-agent reliever.

While talks have progressed, MacPhail said, he has no deal in his "back pocket."

The trade also leaves questions about prospect Josh Bell's future with the organization. Bell, 24, hit .214 and struck out 53 times in 159 at-bats in his rookie year in 2010, but MacPhail maintained that the club is still very excited about the third baseman's future.

Showalter also called Bell on Monday to reassure the switch-hitter that he remains very much in the Orioles' plans.

"We still are very high on Josh, and we certainly have had a lot of interest from other clubs," MacPhail said. "We think the benefit of the [designated hitter] and different corner positions [is that] we don't think this necessarily precludes Josh — if he has a strong spring training — from participating at the major league level in 2011."

Reynolds has played 34 major league games at first base, and MacPhail said that will give the Orioles flexibility. But Reynolds will definitely be at third base in 2011 while also hitting in the middle of the lineup.

"We are not going to profess to doing something different than what Arizona is trying to do," Showalter said. "We are going to dwell on the positives and the things that he brings to us that we don't have. As Andy said, to have him under control as an Oriole for the next two or three years is intriguing for us."

jeff.zrebiec@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Dan Connolly contributed to this article.

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