The Orioles have given up 23 year old relief pitcher Chris Britton in exchange for 30 year old starting pitcher Jaret Wright and $4 million. Wright's $7 million option has been picked up by the Yankees and the Orioles will be on the hook for $3 million through the 2007 season. After that, Wright will be a free agent.
DOB: 12/09/75 Height: 6-2 Weight: 230 B/T: R/R
At first, Wright had trouble justifying his hefty contract after his career year in Atlanta. In 2006, he showed a that he was capable of contributing at the back end of a rotation. Despite a high batting average on balls in play, Wright had a 4.49 ERA in 140.1 innings pitched, which any Orioles fan will tell you is no small feat in the American League East. Even in 2006, however, Wright posted a middling strikeout and walk rate. Instead, much like former staff mate Chien-Ming Wang, Wright is able to pitch effectively because of a rare ability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Wright is especially effective against right-handers, painting the corners with a moving fastball that can touch the mid-90's.
After missing 98 games in 2005 with a right shoulder injury that has cropped up in the past, Wright's durability has to be a concern. It is also rare that he makes it past the fifth inning in any of his starts, leading to some speculation that his ideal role may be in the bullpen.
DOB: 12/16/82 Height: 6-3 Weight: 270 B/T: R/R
Despite essentially skipping two levels from the Carolina League to the Major Leagues, Chris Britton was the second best reliever on the Orioles. That may not mean much considering the state of the Orioles' bullpen, but Britton certainly didn't embarrass himself. He was demoted in late August because the organization was concerned that he had become overly reliant on his fastball. The concern was valid, considering that it was actually his curveball that Carolina League hitters had so much trouble with in 2005. Britton nonetheless showed an ability to effectively locate his fastball that can touch 93 MPH.
Most concerns about Britton center around his weight. While it is now obvious that the Orioles are among the doubters, Britton's weight hasn't caused any problems in his age 22 or age 23 seasons. In fact, his switch to relief work has been met with little but success, despite a heavily rushed timetable. It is likely that Britton could have been effectively bridging the gap to Chris Ray for years to come.
This may not be the addition to the rotation that Baltimore fans have been waiting for, but it may set up some moves down the road. With Kris Benson not forcing a trade, any other free agent signings may give the Orioles enough depth in their rotation to trade some of their own young pitching for the big bats needed at first base and left field.
However, Chris Britton is an awful lot to give up for a pitcher that likely would have hit the free agent market had the Orioles not traded for him. Had the Yankees bought out Wright's contract for the $4 million they are sending over to the Orioles, it is also unlikely that the Orioles would have had to pay much more than the $3 million that they now have committed in order to sign Wright as a free agent. Instead, the Orioles have sent over a promising young reliever who is under club control for five more years to a division rival, all while their own bullpen remains a perennial work in progress.
Jaret Wright may yet be one of those reclamation projects that has made Leo Mazzone the most famous pitching coach in baseball, but Wright now has to be worth five years of Chris Britton. As such, there are considerable odds against the Orioles winning this trade.
Michael Hollman is the Senior Writer for Inside The Warehouse and can be reached via email at Publisher@InsideTheWarehouse.com