Months before a pitch is thrown, a bat is swung, the American League West seems to have tightened up.
One-time Texas ace Kevin Millwood, an innings-eating right-hander due to make $12 million in 2010, has been traded to the Baltimore Orioles for pitcher Chris Ray in a deal that now awaits an exchange and review of medical records.
The Rangers apparently used the money they saved quickly - signing 28-year-old free agent Rich Harden to a one-year, $7.5 million contract.
Yes, the same Harden Seattle has been circling for weeks.
Millwood, who will turn 35 this month, would slide into the Orioles rotation while the Rangers pay $3 million ov his remaining salary. Ray, 27, would work out of the Texas bullpen.
Baltimore will be Millwood's fifth big-league team. Last year in Texas he went 13-10 with a 3.67 ERA while working 198-plus innings. Ray has spent his four-year career in the Orioles pen, appearing in 191 games while going 10-17 with 49 saves and a 4.11 ERA.
Harden, who went 9-9 with a 4.09 ERA for the Chicago Cubs last season, has a history of health problems - but when he's been fit, and pitching in the American League West, he's been effective.
Harden is 50-29 and a 3.39 career ERA.