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The hidden lesson of Glenn Davis

Starting to hear people refer to the Erik Bedard trade as Seattle's "Glenn Davis deal," and there certainly might be some parallels once the thing shakes out completely, which will take a few years.

The O's got potential superstar Adam Jones, reliever George Sherrill and highly regarded pitching prospect Chris Tillman in a five-player package for a pitcher (right) who was hurt for much of his first season in Seattle and just announced he'll undergo labrum surgery next week and be sidelined for six to nine months. Chances are, the Mariners will non-tender him in December, since he'll be eligible for free agency by the time he's ready to pitch again anyway.

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Lest anyone has forgotten, the Orioles traded Curt Schilling, Steve Finley and Pete Harnisch for Glenn Davis back in 1991. Schilling went on to become one of the top power pitchers of his generation. Finley had a long and productive career. And Harnisch, despite some personal problems, was a pretty good major league starter during the 1990s. Davis suffered a freak shoulder injury during his first spring with the Orioles and never delivered on his previous reputation as one of the most feared power hitters in the National League.

It turned out to be one of the worst trades in baseball history -- and certainly the worst in Orioles history -- but no one knew it at the time, just as no one really knew that Bedard's shoulder would give out or Jones would establish quickly in center field for the Orioles or that Sherrill would save more than 30 games and be the key relief pitcher in the All-Star Game. Some things just aren't knowable in advance.

There's really nothing to be learned from the one-sidedness of either of those deals, but there was a hidden lesson in the Davis deal, and if you want to know what it was, you'll have to keep reading.

The hidden lesson of Glenn Davis

The thing that nobody talks about while reflecting on Glenn Davis (left) is how little the Houston Astros really got out of the deal from a long-term perspective. They didn't know what they had in Curt Schilling, so they used him as a reliever for one season and traded him to the Phillies for Jason Grimsley (yes, that Jason Grimsley). They also didn't have enough patience to wait for Finley to come into his own, dealing him away a year before he blossomed into an outstanding offensive player and two-time All-Star who averaged 28 homers and 91 RBIs from 1996-2000.

They did get their money's worth for Harnisch, who pitched well his first three years in Houston before struggling through some depression issues and re-emerging as a quality starter with the Reds in the late 1990s.

In short, the Astros got the long end of the Davis deal -- by far -- but lacked the organizational patience to fully realize what they had. I'm guessing the Orioles will not fall into that trap. They are quite pleased with Jones, whose numbers (.271, 9 HR 57 RBIs) are similar to Finley in his first year with the Astros (.285 8 HR 54 RBIs), and they caught lightning in a bottle with Sherrill.

The hidden lesson of Glenn Davis

Here's the best parallel of all: Most everyone at the time considered Finley and Harnisch to be the most valuable players the Orioles gave up in the Glenn Davis deal, but then-manager Frank Robinson insisted that Schilling would be the best of the bunch. In the Bedard deal, most everyone focused on Jones and Sherrill, but I had scouts (from other teams) tell me in spring training that Chris Tillman (right) had the most upside.

So maybe this will be the Mariners' "Glenn Davis" deal. The Orioles can only hope.

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Bedard/AP photo

Davis/Baltimore Sun photo

Tillman/Baysox photo

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