Andy MacPhail, Balitmore's president of baseball operations, said that the deal took around four days to complete and that both the Cubs and Orioles were trying to fix an organizational surplus. Freel didn't play much for the Orioles, and MacPhail said that situation probably wouldn't have changed going forward.
"I think it's the same thing on both sides of the equation," he said. "Since we acquired Ryan, we ended up acquiring [Ty] Wigginton, who can play third base and bats right-handed. And we acquired [Robert] Andino, who can play shortstop and second base. So we didn't get the at-bats there that we originally anticipated. It's just one of those things that sort of evolved. I think the Cubs had the same thing on the Gathright side. [Kosuke] Fukudome got off to such a hot start that how much they envisioned using Joey initially didn't pan out either."
Freel, who was acquired from Cincinnati in the offseason as part of a deal for Ramon Hernandez, hit just .133 in nine games with the Orioles. The veteran was hit in the head by an errant pickoff throw two weeks ago in Boston and has been on the disabled list since, bedeviled by a problematic rehab assignment.
Freel had one game scratched because he couldn't pass an impact test, and he sat out both ends of a rain-strewed doubleheader for Double-A Bowie this week. Freel, a career .271 hitter, had gone to speak to MacPhail about his role multiple times this season and ended up getting exactly what he wanted.
"It's just one of those star-crossed things," said MacPhail. "Ryan and I talked a couple times, and he saw himself more as a National League player. Double-switch, get to play there more than he did here. And I really couldn't fault his logic. To me, you could kind of see that there wasn't going to be as many at-bats here as we originally forecast. I think this gives him a new lease, and hopefully he'll get back to the type of player he was before."
Freel had nearly $4 million remaining on his contract when he was originally traded, and Gathright was owed less than $1 million. The Orioles apparently kicked in more than $1 million to even out the scales, which is why the trade required approval from the Commissioner's Office before it could be approved and announced.
Gathright gives the Orioles another veteran outfielder to serve as injury insurance at Triple-A Norfolk. The 28-year-old is hitting .214 this season and .262 for his career, and he's known as a defensive-minded speedster.
In the short term, reserve Lou Montanez appears to be the greatest beneficiary of the trade. Montanez has steadily been carving playing time away from Felix Pie during Freel's absence, an experiment that will likely continue. Baltimore may eventually turn to prospect Nolan Reimold, who has gotten off to a hot start at Norfolk.
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.