Did the Rangers pawn the O’s for Harden?

Reds vs. CubsFor a moment I have to wonder if Rich Harden had or has any interest in pitching in Baltimore? The reason I ask is the 28 year old right hander signed a contract with the Texas Rangers worth $6.5 million. Harden, who may be the most talented free agent pitcher on the market, has had a history of arm troubles but at $6.5 million would be worth the risk for most teams.Apparently there is another $3.5 million that Harden can earn in incentives.

Harden’s contract also includes an option for 2011 worth $11.5 million.

All this was made possible by the Rangers trade of Kevin Millwood to Baltimore.

Desperate for some type of stability at the top of the rotation the Orioles have been linked to all sorts of free agent options not named John Lackey. Then today the team agreed on a deal with the Texas Rangers in which Chris Ray leaves town in return for Kevin Millwood and $3 million. Millwood has a salary of $12 million in 2010, of which the Orioles will be responsible for $9 million.

After struggeling for most of 2007 and 2008, Millwood had a bounce back 2009 that saw him pitch 198.2 innings while posting a impressive 3.67 ERA and a 1.34 WHIP.

Millwood who will be 35 by the start of spring training is in the final season of a 5 year $60 million contract he signed back in the winter of 2005.

The Rangers have floated around the thought that they’d trade Millwood this off-season but looking at their current options on the mound no one could truly believe that unless they got someone else to head up the staff.

Obviously the Rangers felt that negotiations with Harden were going well and with them being comfortable in him heading up their rotation they went ahead and dropped Millwood right in the lap of one of the teams desperately seeking a veteran starter.

Sure Harden’s injury concerns are pretty obvious but it’s not like Kevin Millwood doesn’t offer his own as well.

Chris Ray being involved in the trade doesn’t really change much for the Orioles. There was a 50/50 chance the team would non-tender him and even with his struggles to come back from Tommy John surgery he probably was in line to receive a raise from the $850,000 he made last season. The Orioles could just as well held on to him and saw if he returned to his 2007 form that saw him pick up 33 saves with a 2.73 ERA after all the club is still looking for an option at closer. The trade simply removes any decision on Ray by the Orioles.

It’d be interesting to ask the Orioles front office if they’d of preferred Harden over Millwood. Likely you’d publicly get the reaction that Millwood is a very good pitcher and they were happy to have him. Though I have to suspect that privately they are a little jolted after hearing the Rangers next transaction.