He kept it close to the sweater vest.
The Baltimore Orioles were a highly dysfunctional franchise when Andy McPhail arrived half way through the 2007 season. The major league team was floundering and the organization had major holes at every level. Without being able to lure and sign high priced free agents to Baltimore, McPhail brought two key aspects to the team that shouldn't be overlooked.
1. Trade Value
McPhail was very conservative in his baseball dealings.He disregarded international scouting due to the unknowns that went along with players from the Dominican and other Latin countries. His old school ways lead him to keep trade talks and other organizational rumors tight lipped. But when it came to the actual trades themselves, McPhail was usually the winner.
The three major trades that come to mind from McPhail's tenure are the Erik Bedard, Mark Reynolds, and JJ Hardy trades. The Bedard trade is a winner as Adam Jones has proven to be more than valuable in his three plus seasons with the Orioles. If Chris Tillman realized his potential in the next season or two, there will be no doubt that the Orioles came out ahead. Jones looks like he is ready to break out into a great player and could potentially be the next big trade chip for a team that needs to be restocking its youth. And let's not forget George Sherrill, who provided the club with a closer for the 2008 and 2009 seasons.
Acquiring Mark Reynolds from the Diamondbacks for David Hernandez was a risky move. Baseball fans are often blinded by the wrong statistics. Reynolds high strikeout numbers overshadowed his high on-base percentage and big power numbers for some fans while Hernandez's strong arm and youth was highly coveted by fans who had witnessed poor pitching for almost a decade. But at the end of the day, despite even my own liking of what David Hernandez brought to the table, the return that Reynolds brought in home run power compared to a 7th or 8th inning pitcher is significant. Even if you feel that Reynolds and Hernandez were equal in 2011, which I don't agree with but can see an argument, the 2012 season will prove if this trade was more than an equal deal for both teams.
Acquiring JJ Hardy from the Twins for two non-top 10 prospects was a steal and has already paid dividends. Hardy's 30 home runs in 2011 combined with his stellar defensive play, make the days of Cesar Izturis look even worse. I imagine Twins fans were not pleased when the Orioles rolled into Minnesota in August with JJ Hardy batting second, with 20 home runs already in the books, and took the four game series.
2. Small Improvements
When McPhail came aboard, one of the first reported issues he had to deal with was upgrading the major league scouting video equipment. As ludicrous as that sounds, that was the reality of the 2007 Orioles. It also shows what a complete mess the Orioles were and how major changes weren't going to occur overnight.
McPhail did an above average job in re-stocking a completely depleted minor league system by drafting Matt Wieters, Brian Matusz, and Manny Machado. Wieters has proven to be a top caliber catcher and while Matusz had a horrific 2011 season, there is still a lot of optimism that he will be able to rebound in 2012.
While the hiring of manager Buck Showalter was probably a year too late, McPhail showed his conservative approach paid off by not jumping at the first viable candidate and bringing in someone who has a track record of being able to turn below average teams into .500+ ball clubs. I can only imagine what it would be like to have Bobby Valentine here in Baltimore. We'll be able to see up close and personal of what his goofy personality bring to the Red Sox in 2012.