Ben Maller is reporting that the Orioles are about to trade for AJ Burnett, third baseman Mike Lowell, and perhaps minor league outfielder Eric Reed for Jorge Julio, outfielder Larry Bigbie, and top pitching prospect Hayden Penn.
If this trade happens, watch out for the O's - this might be the trade that makes them win the pennant. AJ Burnett is poised to become one of the best starters in the game, and a rotation anchored by him, a returning Eric Bedard, and Lopez is right up there with the Red Sox and far and away better than the Yankees' rotating door of 40-year olds.
It's a concern taking Mike Lowell, another aging slugger making a lot of money ($18 million over the next two years). But he was a terrific player as soon ago as last year, and if (a big if) he can play the position of LF (left unoccupied by Larry Bigbie, who won't really be missed except maybe by her), then he could be a find. Then again, he could have had it, like Sammy Sosa looks like he has. I actually think Sosa will bust out a bit in the second half, as Sosa's peripheral numbers (BB/K) are at or better than his career rates, so he still has decent pitch selection. Lowell, on the other hand, has higher K rates and lower BB rates, as well as much lower power rates, than he has had the rest of his career. He could still come back pretty good, though, and, either way, he's presumably going to be expected to replace the easy-to-replace bat of Larry Bigbie.
He also might just play against lefties, platooning with Palmeiro and probably getting some DH at-bats. Lowell hits lefties well still, so this could be a good move. This puts Gibbons in as the everyday LF and keeps Sosa in RF everyday.
The player the O's will miss this year is Jorge Julio, who is one of the best setup men in the league, even though I don't think most O's fans recognize this. The O's bullpen is pretty weak right now, and that weakens it. It's too bad the O's decided to keep Steve Kline and Steve Reed this spring training instead of Jay Witasick, who they released, and who has had a good year as a setup man for the Rockies and now the A's. If Jason Grimsley can be effective now that he's back, that would make the loss of Julio much easier to take.
I don't know much about the O's minor league system, so I don't know how highly Hayden Penn is looked upon. He was fairly impressive in his callup this year, so they'll probably miss him.
All in all, though, this looks to be a good deal for both teams. The O's get Burnett for the year, and might get some use out of Lowell. The Marlins get rid of Lowell's bad contract, and get a young prospect and a decent reliever. Bigbie is the type of player who can be signed as a free agent easily, while Reed hopefully is a guy who could become a Larry Bigbie down the road. And hopefully for the Tigers, the O's won't sign Burnett to a long term deal so the Tigs can sign him in the off-season, which they've been rumored to be doing for a couple of years now.
If it happens, it will be very good for the O's and be a major boon for the pennant hopes. Now, rumor has it that the Red Sox are also after Burnett, and if that's the case, the O's better get it done - the acquisition of Burnett by the Red Sox would pretty much sew up the division for them. The Yankees and White Sox also want Burnett. I say that the O's should pull this trigger because this is the moment to make things happen, even if there are risks.
I'll also be interested to see if the trade means Sidney Ponson gets moved to the bullpen. Chen has a 3.76 era, while Cabrera is at 4.70 and striking out a ton of batters. Ponson now has a 6.04 era and you never expect him to pitch a good game. It's a bummer he hasn't worked out better for the O's. They really fleeced the Giants with him, trading him for some good prospects and then re-signing him a few months later. Too bad Ainsworth got hurt and Ponson hasn't been any good since they re-acquired him. It could have been a good move.
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