The Rangers managed to get themselves out of Kevin Millwood‘s 12 million dollar contract on Wednesday, trading the starting pitcher along with 3 million dollars to the Baltimore Orioles for reliever Chris Ray and a PTBNL.
2009 was a banner year for Millwood, as his 3.67 ERA was his best mark since his last year of his original contract with Atlanta in 2002. However, as we often see, Millwood’s ERA didn’t showcase his true talent level. Millwood only struck out 5.5 batters per 9 innings, and he walked over 3. He simply wasn’t the type of dominant pitcher who should end the season with a sub-4.00 ERA. Only his .279 BABIP (vs. a career mark of .306) kept his ERA at such a low level. His sub-par peripherals resulted in a 4.80 FIP.
In 200 innings, the value of a 4.80 FIP comes out to 2.4 wins. So Millwood was a productive pitcher last year and he certainly can be a productive pitcher in the future. There aren’t very many 2.4 win players out there, and Millwood may be due for a better year, as his 2007 and 2008 years were better than his 2009. On the other hand, Millwood is aging, and it’s possible that he’s entered his decline phase and his innings may slip and his peripherals may fall farther.
Essentially, there are clearly better ways to spend 7-8 million dollars (roughly the difference between Ray’s salary and the 12 million cleared by Millwood’s departure). The Rangers signed Rich Harden to a 7.5 million dollar deal, and he has produced 3.9 wins or better 3 times. This is a great example of what a team can do with cleared salary, and so this trade is already paying dividends for Texas.
The return of Chris Ray is negligible. He is arbitration eligible, but due to his 7.27 ERA, he will likely see a similar contract to the 0.85M he received, if not lower, if he is even tendered a contract. He missed all of 2008, and has only thrown more than 45 innings in a season once. Ray has never shown the ability to either limit walks or home runs enough to become a truly productive pitcher. He will be a reclamation project for Mike Maddux at best, and probably will not be a factor.
For the Orioles, they receive a roughly average starting pitcher. As a one year commitment, 9 million dollars isn’t egregious. It will be probably be near his market value. With the Orioles not in a position to compete, taking on that kind of salary doesn’t really make sense. This kind of money could be much better spent on international signings, draft picks, or other developmental type of projects. He will give them decent production, but is the marginal value of his 2-3 wins above replacement really worth 9 million dollars to them? I’m not sure.