Chris Ray will probably make only around $1 million in arbitration despite his save total because of the time he lost to injury and his poor performance after returning in 2009. But the first year back after Tommy John surgery often means reduced command as the pitcher gets his feel back. So what do the Rangers gain?
Ray's not an elite closer, but he could help the Rangers in some leveraged late-game role. He also makes it easier for them to put Neftali Feliz in the rotation, where he worked in the minors before mid-2009 and where his future probably lies. Saving $8 million -- which they've allocated to Rich Harden, while adding a decent relief arm -- is a big win for Texas and allows the Rangers to close the door on another big free-agent deal that didn't work out.
In other words, this trade alone doesn't make them better, but using the proceeds to land Harden does.
Baltimore's motivation is a little less clear. They trade three years of control of Ray for one of Millwood and add $8 million in salary, although losing Ray's 2009 performance isn't going to hurt the club. Millwood could, in a best-case scenario, provide some bulk innings, but I wouldn't bet on league-average performance after a year when his strikeout rate was a career-worst and his walk rate was close to one as well.
Millwood's velocity has been gradually declining for years, and he doesn't have the type of command to survive as a finesse guy -- although his stuff hasn't yet dropped to that level. With Jeremy Guthrie, Brian Matusz, Chris Tillman and probably Brad Bergesen behind Millwood, the O's now have a complete rotation on paper, but I wouldn't be shocked if Millwood were only the third-best starter of the bunch in 2010 (even though he'll outearn the other four combined).
Ultimately, it's a short-term move that probably won't matter by 2011 or 2012 when the Orioles are closer to contention, but for right now it looks like a small loss of value.