Update (2:10 PM): Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Rangers will send $3M to Baltimore along with Millwood. Certainly, that amount raises my eyebrows. Millwood is hardly the kind of pitcher that you trade Chris Ray and spend $9M on, considering the apparent statistical decline and the numerous options that Baltimore has beyond Guthrie, Matusz, Bergesen and Tillman, including the aforementioned Hernandez, Erbe and Jason Berken.
The Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles agreed to a swap of starting pitcher Kevin Millwood and relief pitcher Chris Ray this afternoon, according to Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun. Rumors of a deal sending Millwood to Baltimore emerged in November, with names like David Hernandez and Brandon Erbe being bandied about, but eventually the two teams settled on Ray, Baltimore's former closer.
Millwood, 36 on Christmas Eve, gives the Orioles a veteran presence in a rotation that includes just one starter from the 2008 season, power righty Jeremy Guthrie. Presumably, the other three spots will be filled by Brad Bergesen and elite prospects Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman, who likely are expected to receive tutoring from Millwood, one of the more consistently solid starters of the past decade.
While Millwood's ERA plummeted from 5.07 in 2008 to 3.67 in 2009, he actually posted the worst peripherals numbers of his career in 2009. His 5.57 strikeout rate and 1.73 K/BB ratio are the worst of his career, his home run and flyball rates were at their highest point since 2001, and his 4.80 FIP and 4.78 xFIP were the worst marks of his career as well. His contact rates have been consistently higher since leaving the NL as well.
Considering that Millwood clearly is in decline, it appears that the Orioles see Millwood as an innings eating veteran presence, and apparently the soon-to-be 28-year-old Ray didn't fit into Baltimore's bullpen anymore. Ray was a solid reliever for Baltimore from 2005 to 2007, his first three years in the majors, with a 3.19 ERA and a 2.19 K/BB ratio in 149 innings, about half of it spent as the closer.
The big factor in this deal is money, as Millwood is owed $12M for 2010, not remotely what Millwood would make on the open market. The move depends a great deal on how much money Baltimore is expected to pay Millwood and how much Texas eats, but at the very least the Rangers added a live power arm while freeing up payroll and a spot in the rotation for stud prospect Neftali Feliz.
For Baltimore, they managed to trade a fungible bullpen arm for a much-needed veteran presence as they hope to be the "Rays of 2010", but adding a guy who just posted a 4.80 FIP probably doesn't bring them much closer. If the Orioles are paying Millwood more than $5-6M, then I'd be very curious to see what MacPhail and company's thought process is behind this deal. Certainly, it will be easier to judge this deal when we have the details on what kind of money is changing hands.