Tejada redux a smart gamble by O's


hen Andy MacPhail acquired 10 players for a scandal-scarred Miguel Tejada and an injury-prone Erik Bedard, there was national sentiment that he had all but fleeced the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners.

So what are people going to say if he ends up getting both Tejada and Bedard back this winter at bargain prices?


Don't laugh. MacPhail is halfway there. Tejada has agreed to terms on a one-year deal - pending a physical - and will move from shortstop to third base to complete the position portion of MacPhail's winter renovation project. Bedard is still out there and the Orioles have not hidden their interest, so it wouldn't come as a complete surprise if those two big deals from two years ago end up being a 12-for-none proposition.

First things first. The return of Tejada figures to spark some controversy - considering the nettlesome issues that followed him out of Baltimore - but the decision to bring him back was applauded without reservation by the guys he played alongside the first time around.


"I don't think you could find anybody who has ever played with him who didn't enjoy him as a teammate," second baseman Brian Roberts said. "Why wouldn't you want a guy who potentially can give you 200 hits and 100 RBIs?"

Nick Markakis said pretty much the same thing. The veterans on this team want a chance to compete, and the fact that Tejada had 199 hits last year appears to outweigh any concerns about the negative aspects of his previous incarnation as an Oriole.

Don't know whether that will be the unanimous opinion of the fans. Tejada's involvement in baseball's problem with performance-enhancing drugs and the perception that he didn't always hustle during his first go-around in Baltimore figure to be part of any debate over the wisdom of bringing him back as a stopgap at third base while the Orioles await the emergence of top infield prospect Josh Bell.

But it's hard to argue that there was a better option out there at this point in the offseason, and it's even harder to argue that - those drawbacks notwithstanding - he isn't the right fit for this team at this point in its rebuilding program. The O's already shored up the starting rotation with Kevin Millwood and the bullpen with closer Mike Gonzalez. They also gambled that former Colorado Rockies slugger Garrett Atkins can bounce back from a horrible 2009 performance.

They still were desperate to balance their offense with a quality right-handed bat, and Tejada was willing to provide that on a short-term basis coming off his fifth All-Star season in the past six years. The only question is whether he can make the successful transition from shortstop to third base.

It's not often that you see MacPhail trading offense for defense - especially while he's trying to develop a young pitching staff - but that part of this equation makes sense under the circumstances. For all the talk about the pre-eminence of pitching and defense, the four American League teams that reached the playoffs last year were also the four teams that scored the most runs over the course of the regular season. And only one of those four teams (the New York Yankees) was in the top five in the AL in ERA.

The Orioles ranked fifth in the league in batting average last year but only 11th in runs, which is an indication that they are an RBI guy or two away from being a pretty good offensive team. Tejada's run-production potential isn't what it was when he drove in 150 runs for the Orioles in 2004, but he's still a difference-maker.

If this were a winning team that was looking for a chemistry guy, you might be able to make the case that Tejada comes with too much risk. But the Orioles are desperate to take a competitive step forward after another very disappointing season in 2009. Tejada can help them do that, so you might just have to hold your nose if you're uncomfortable cheering for a guy with such a checkered history.