Bricks from the Warehouse

April 6
Conine: more of the same

Last week, the Orioles traded Danny Clyburn for Jason Johnson. To wrap up spring training, the Orioles made a few more decisions. They released Chris Hoiles, added Willis Otanez to the roster, and traded Chris Fussell for Jeff Conine.

In isolation, these transactions look confusing. Putting them together, they look nonsensical. Conine was acquired to fill the right-handed designated hitter spot. Yes, in case you were wondering, that's the role Chris Hoiles would have filled. The Orioles have insinuated that Hoiles is finished as a player. Well, we're skeptical, given Ray Miller's obvious dislike for Hoiles and his skills, but for now we'll have to take their word for it, not having access to his medical records. But even without Hoiles, Danny Clyburn could have filled that role -- if he hadn't just been traded. And for whom was Clyburn traded? Right handed pitcher Jason Johnson, because (in Ray Miller's words) "Frank Wren is my hero because he keeps accumulating as many strong, young arms as he can." And yet, a few days later, the Orioles trade away young right-handed pitcher Chris Fussell, one of the Orioles' top prospects.

So it's a wash, right? They give up a pitcher and a hitter, and get a pitcher and a hitter, right? Sure, sounds good. Except (and stop me if you've heard this one before) Conine is a 33 year old player in severe decline, who spent 59 days last year on the disabled list. (We're not making this up. It only sounds like we're talking about every other member of the roster.)

But that's not the worst part. The worst part is that Chris Hoiles and Willis Otanez were believed to have been fighting for a roster slot. With these transactions, according to Frank Wren, Jeff Conine makes Willis Otanez "redundant." That's right, apparently it's "redundant" to have two players on the bench who can hit. It's much better to go with the really-crappy-player-who-can-run-or-maybe-not-do-anything bench, the way Miller wants, with Reboulet, Webster, Amaral, and Conine.

So once Scott Kamieniecki (or his replacement) comes back, and they need to open up a roster spot, it's very possible that this series of trades could cost the Orioles Chris Fussell, Danny Clyburn, Chris Hoiles, and Willis Otanez. All in exchange for a 33-year old part-time designated hitter who really can't hit anymore and a 25-year old pitcher who has impressed Ray Miller but hasn't pitched well. Sounds like a great set of decisions to us. A 33 year old player who has been below average the last two years needs to hit better than Chris Hoiles, Danny Clyburn, and Willis Otanez to justify these deals. And that's without even mentioning Lyle Mouton, who's also in AAA.

It's just more of the same from the Orioles. Whenever they can get older, they do. And then they wonder why they disappoint.

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Last Updated: April 6, 1999