Truth is, the Rangers didn’t want to trade Chris Davis.
That’s not revisionist history coming from Rangers general manager Jon Daniels. That’s the recollection of Andy MacPhail, who made the deal during his tenure as the Orioles’ president of baseball operations.
The Rangers wanted right-hander Koji Uehrara from the Orioles at the 2011 trade deadline, and initially were only willing to part with right-hander Tommy Hunter. The Orioles, though, wanted Davis, too.
MacPhail said he had a plan to make it happen – trade first baseman Derrek Lee to the Pittsburgh Pirates to save about $2 million, then include that money in the deal for Davis, who would replace Lee.
The deal, then, would be cash-neutral – the Orioles also would send a small amount of cash to the Pirates, but save a small amount in the exchange of Uehara for Davis and Hunter.
Which, in the end, is exactly how it went down.
Both deals were completed on July 30 – Lee and cash to the Pirates for minor-league first baseman Aaron Baker, and Uehara and $2 million to the Rangers for Davis and Hunter.
The Rangers, MacPhail said, had wanted the Orioles to include a pitching prospect to make the trade a 2-for-2. But MacPhail didn’t want to trade any of his young pitching; he already was giving up Uehara, who at the time was one of the hottest relievers in baseball. In the end, the Rangers accepted $2 million instead.
Another interesting detail: The Orioles also asked about right-hander Joe Wieland in the Uehara talks, according to MacPhail. But the Rangers would not discuss Wieland, who became part of another deal, going with lefty Robbie Erlin to the Padres for another right-handed setup man, Mike Adams, the next day.
It’s easy to look back now and say the Rangers should have kept Davis, who hit 33 homers last season and four in his first four games this season. But Mitch Moreland had claimed the Rangers’ first-base job in the second half of 2010 and first half of ’11.
Davis, now 27, never quite established himself in parts of four seasons with the Rangers. Daniels loved his power and defense, but sensed that a change would be best for everyone.
On the day of the trade, the GM told reporters that he knew Davis could become a “late bloomer” like Nelson Cruz and develop into a high-impact offensive player.
“If he does, we’ll live with it,” Daniels said.
The Rangers are living with it. And the Orioles are living happily ever after.
THE VICTORS ARE BACK
The return of the elder Victor Martinez gives the Tigers not just another imposing hitter, but also a terrific leader. Martinez is a loud, positive, energetic presence in the dugout, teammates say, and sets a strong example with his preparation.
Perhaps best of all, Martinez is part of a package deal.
His irrepressible 8-year-old son, Victor Jose, once was a favorite of Terry Francona’s with the Red Sox, and his buoyant personality makes him immensely popular in the Tigers’ clubhouse as well.
Victor Jose spent part of Friday diving into clubhouse couches to catch footballs thrown by right-hander Max Scherzer and bantering with several other Tigers.
“If I play long enough, will I get to play with you? Will you be in the big leagues at 18?” right-hander Justin Verlander asked Victor Jose.
Before Victor Jose could respond, Verlander announced, “You’re going to be there.” Verlander then started rotating his arm and talking to it, saying, “Hold on, buddy, hold on.”
FIELDER’S GLOVE STORY
Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder is using a bigger glove this season at the suggestion of his injured Yankees counterpart, Mark Teixeira.
The two were talking last season, and Teixeira advised Fielder to use the biggest glove he could find.
“I figured that if I’m going to copy anybody, I might as well copy someone who’s good at first,” Fielder said, smiling.
Actually, advanced metrics show that Fielder has improved defensively over the past several years, and he did mixed martial arts training during the off-season to further help his agility.
Teixeira, by the way, said a smaller glove is only an advantage for a first baseman when he needs to get the ball out of his glove quickly and start a 3-6-1 double play. Such plays, though, occur only a handful of times during the course of the season.
On all other chances, the bigger glove provides a deeper pocket, Teixeira said, and the added length comes in handy both when extending for grounders and line drives, scooping balls out of the dirt and reaching for high or wide throws.
“It seems logical,” Fielder said. “With a bigger glove, it will go in there easier.”
MR. OVERBAY’S WILD RIDE
Lyle Overbay’s final days of spring training could not have been more hectic.
The Red Sox released Overbay on March 26 and he signed with the Yankees later that day. Two days later, he heard new Yankees teammate Dan Johnson asking if the players needed to wear suits on the plane to Washington.
“What plane?” Overbay said.
Overbay knew the Nationals were on the schedule, but he thought the game was at the Nats’ spring home in Viera, Fl., not Washington, D.C.
Nope – the flight was that night, and Overbay needed a suit to adhere to the Yankees’ dress code.
His oversight forced his wife, Sarah, into action – with the Overbays’ four children, ranging in age from 10 months to nine years, in tow.
Lyle said that Sarah and the children drove about 2½ hours from the Yankees’ spring home in Tampa back to the Overbays’ temporary residence in Ft. Myers, where the family had spent much of the spring with the Red Sox.
She picked up a suit for Lyle and some other clothes, then drove back with the children, arriving just minutes before the game ended, Overbay said. Mission accomplished, Sarah and the children then drove back, one more time, to Ft. Myers.
For those keeping score, that’s three trips with four kids, about 7½ hours in the car, all in one day.
A SVELTE PRONK
Travis Hafner said he lost 15 pounds in spring training, going from his old playing weight of 255 to 240. The Yankees’ strength and conditioning coaches recommended that he lose the weight, telling him it would ease the strain on his back and knees.
Hafner, 35, said he probably hasn’t been this light since he was in Double A back in 2001, and he notices that he isn’t getting as stiff and sore after games.
What about his speed?
“I’ll say it’s improving,” Hafner said, smiling. “But I’m pretty much stuck in neutral.”
FROM COKE, NO EXCUSES
More often than not, players are accountable for their mistakes. But few are as accountable as Tigers left-hander Phil Coke was when I asked him about his blown save in Minnesota last Wednesday.
Coke lost the game on a drive by Eduardo Escobar that eluded Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks in left-center. Instead of a game-tying sacrifice fly, it became a game-winning double.
I mentioned to Coke that he might have caught a bad break, but he was having none of it. He said his pitch location was terrible, and he was surprised that Escobar not hit the ball for a home run.
“It’s on me. I’ll wear it,” Coke said. “Don’t question my guys.”
DON’T FORGET THIS SHORTSTOP
The Rangers’ Jurickson Profar is the game’s top shortstop prospect. Fans also are familiar with the Diamondbacks’ Didi Gregorius and Marlins’ Adeiny Hechavarria because they were part of major trades last off-season.
The Brewers’ Jean Segura, by contrast, is practically old news – he was the centerpiece of a blockbuster last July, the one that sent right-hander Zack Grienke to the Los Angeles Angels.
But Segura, 23, looks like a keeper.
He had only a .652 OPS in 163 plate appearances after skipping Triple A and joining the Brewers last season. He then won the Dominican League batting title with a .324 average in 35 games. And now he is off to an impressive 9-for-20 start with the Brewers.
Hechavarria, too, is playing every day in the majors, but Profar started the season at Triple A and Gregorius opened on the disabled list with a right elbow strain.
THE NL WEST: ALL IN THE FAMILY
Baseball men come, baseball men go, but in the NL West, the faces rarely change.
The West always offers some terrific storylines, in part because the principals know each other so well.
*Brian Sabean. In his 17th year as Giants GM.
*Ned Colletti. Twentieth season in the West. His first 12 were with the Giants, his last seven have been as Dodgers GM.
*Bruce Bochy. This is his 19th season as a manager in the West. His first 12 were with the Padres, his last seven have been with the Giants.
*Kevin Towers. Seventeenth season in the West. He was the Padres’ GM from 1995 to 2009 and took over the Diamondbacks in Sept. 2010.
*Dan O’Dowd. Entering his 14th full season as Rockies GM.
*Bill Geivett. Sixteenth season in the West. Geivett, the Rockies’ director of major-league operations was with the Dodgers from 1998 to 2000, then joined the Rockies.
*Josh Byrnes. The junior member of the group, but not exactly a newcomer. Byrnes was GM of the Diamondbacks for 4½ years, and this is his third season with the Padres.
AROUND THE HORN
*Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez, making strong progress in his recovery from right-thumb surgery, could return in mid-May rather than late May, club officials say.
*A scout who covered the opening series between the White Sox and Royals said he preferred the Sox “by far,” citing the strength of their pitching. If lefty Chris Sale and righty Jake Peavy stay healthy . . .
*And finally, one GM makes a great point about the need for a uniform DH in both leagues. With inter-league play no longer confined to set periods, AL pitchers will bat more sporadically. Imagine the outcry if an expensive pitcher like Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander suffered an injury bunting or running the bases under NL rules.