Orioles get two prospects for Sherrill
Closer heads to Dodgers as Bell, Johnson head East
BALTIMORE -- Baltimore closer George Sherrill was dealt to the Dodgers in return for prospects Josh Bell and Steve Johnson on Thursday, a trade that continues the Orioles' rebuilding movement. Andy MacPhail, Baltimore's president of baseball operations, said the deal was bittersweet in that regard.
"It's kind of a sad day for us to trade George Sherrill, who has been such an important part of our club over the last year and a half," said MacPhail, who originally acquired Sherrill from Seattle. "But we have to do the things that we're convinced will make us better in the future, and we think that this trade has helped us do that."
The trade was consummated a day before the non-waiver Trade Deadline and capped a feverish week of negotiations that saw as many as seven or eight teams vying for Sherrill's services. MacPhail said the Orioles ultimately chose the team that best matched up with them and was most willing to give up talent for talent.
"We had several teams that we were talking to, and really more than several," MacPhail said. "This one became clear over time that it fit our needs the best and it was an organization that had some depth at this position to deal from."
For the Orioles, the move represents the continued utility of the Erik Bedard trade. Sherrill was acquired before the 2008 season as part of a five-player haul for Bedard, and he responded with an All-Star season.
Center fielder Adam Jones -- who earned his own All-Star status this season -- and top pitching prospect Chris Tillman also came over in the deal, and now Sherrill has been dealt for a third baseman in Bell.
MacPhail said that several teams viewed Sherrill as a setup man as opposed to a closer, an opinion that influenced the value offered back. In Bell, though, the Orioles got a player who may eventually add to the team's young nucleus -- boasting players such as Matt Wieters, Jones, Nick Markakis and Nolan Reimold.
"Here you have a young switch-hitter who at 22 years old has more than handled himself well at Double-A," said MacPhail, expounding on Bell's ability. "Our guys are convinced that he can stay there at third. We think that he's shown power and he's got middle of the order power, potentially down the road. There are some key indicators that are very positive for us: His walk rates keep improving, his strikeout rates keep going down."
Sherrill didn't know his fate when he left Camden Yards, but the trade details began to leak out shortly after Baltimore's 7-3 win over Kansas City. The southpaw dealt with the buzz building around him in the home team's clubhouse, and when Nick Markakis asked him if he'd see him tomorrow, Sherrill said, 'Let's hope.'
An hour later, Sherrill was more informed and more enthusiastic about his immediate future. Sherrill, when reached on his cell phone, said that he had gotten the initial word in a conversation with MacPhail.
"Andy called me and said that it's all but done," said Sherrill, commenting an hour before the team sent out an official news release. "I'm not really surprised because everybody's been talking about it for the longest time. It's just a matter of it finally happening, and now I know it's done. I have no say in it. I'm a Dodger now."
Sherrill, who has saved 20 games and worked to a 2.40 ERA, said that he's excited to join a first place team and to hopefully participate in the playoffs for the first time in his career. The left-hander said that he enjoyed his time in Baltimore and wished he could've been around to see the rebuilding movement reach fruition.
"It would've been nice to stay here and be the closer for this team if they eventually turn the corner," Sherrill said. "I would've liked to be a part of that process, but now I'm a Dodger. Hopefully, I'll have a little bit of a say about us going back to the playoffs, and it will be good to be closer to home. I still haven't heard from [Los Angeles] to know what to do, but it will be fun to be able to get home quick and able to complete the last couple steps for my wedding."
Sherrill's departure cuts a hole in the Baltimore bullpen, and the Orioles will likely turn to setup man Jim Johnson to fill the void. The point of the trade, however, wasn't for the next two months. MacPhail sees Bell as a potential long-term solution at third base and Johnson as another arm to add to his inventory of starting pitchers.
Bell, who was hitting .296 with 11 home runs for Double-A Chattanooga, may even be ready to challenge for a starting job next season. The former fourth-round Draft pick won't turn 23 until November and said it was difficult to leave the Dodgers, the team that drafted and developed him. In the end, though, he was happy for the opportunity.
"It's definitely mixed emotions," said Bell of leaving the Dodgers. "I was drafted out of high school by the Dodgers, so not only growing up baseball-wise, just growing up in general in life with the Dodgers. That's always going to be hard when you've been with a team like that. But business is business, and when it comes down to it, I feel like I've got a good shot with the Orioles. If they're in need of a third baseman, that just tells me that if I keep up what I've been doing and get better that I've got a straight shot there, whereas here I was blocked."
Johnson, the son of former Orioles pitcher and current Baltimore broadcaster Dave Johnson, seemed numbed by the trade that will send him back to his hometown. The right-hander said he had been following the trade rumors but never expected to see his name included in them, and he also said he found out about the deal on the Internet.
"It's always nice to play for your hometown team," Steve Johnson said. "I'm glad the Dodgers drafted me four years ago and gave me the chance. I've proven myself, and hopefully I get the chance to make it up there with the Orioles sometime soon."
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.