MLB: The Baltimore Orioles Pros and Cons of Trading J.J. Hardy
The Orioles have trotted out many shortstops since Miguel Tejada was traded prior to the 2008 season. Freddie Bynum, Brandon Fahey, Juan Castro, Alex Cintron and Luis Hernandez were all starting shortstops that season, and it was a miserable showing. 2009 and 2010 saw the defense improve dramatically with the signing of Cesar Izturis, but his lack of offense made him just as painful to watch.
Now, the Orioles finally have a worthy replacement in J.J. Hardy. Hardy has not only made all of the plays at short easily but also has carried the offense and been one of the most valuable parts of the lineup.
Hardy is in his final year of arbitration and is set to become a free agent when the season is over. The Orioles are currently negotiating an extension for Hardy, but if nothing can be reached within the next week or so, the Orioles must trade Hardy because he will be the most sought after trade chip on the team.
In case the Orioles can't extend Hardy's contract, here are the pros and cons of a potential deal.
Pro: The Market Values Hardy Very Highly
There are quite a few teams in contention that have struggled to find a playoff-caliber shortstop. The Rays, Reds and Pirates could all be looking at Hardy if he hits the market. The great thing for the Orioles is that if Hardy is made available, he will be the best shortstop on the market by far because Jose Reyes isn't going anywhere.
The added bonus from the Rays, Reds and Pirates is that they are all talent-rich teams.
The Rays are known recently for having an incredible mass of homegrown talent. While the Orioles could never get a guy like Matt Moore from them, they could get at least a couple of very good prospects in return for Hardy.
The Reds just promoted Zack Cozart to the majors, but he is young and his success at the big league level is over a very small sample size. Cozart and Yonder Alonso are names that will be thrown out in potential deals between the Reds and the Orioles.
The Pirates are in desperate need of an upgrade at short. Chase d'Arnaud is the current starter and his OPS doesn't even crack .600. Hardy's .836 OPS is almost .300 higher than d'Arnaud.
Cons: The Replacements Are Poor
Robert Andino would likely become the starting shortstop, and with Brian Roberts and Izturis both out, that would move Blake Davis to starting second baseman.
Davis is just average defensively and Andino's defense is normally flashy instead of consistent. Offensively, the Orioles would desperately miss the power and leadoff ability.
Andino and Felix Pie were mediocre leadoff hitters, but Hardy has been the perfect fill-in for Roberts while he recovers. He has been one of the main reasons the Orioles are even able to score runs because he gets on base very well.
Pros: Manny Machado Won't Be Blocked
Hardy is probably not going to want to be extended for just a year. He probably doesn't want two years either. Assuming Hardy wants a third year, the log jam could get a little messy.
Manny Machado is progressing very quickly and will likely get his call-up in May or June of 2013. That means that Hardy would stay at short through 2012 and the beginning of 2013, but one of the two would have to change positions once Machado gets the call.
Unfortunately, Roberts will still be at second and Mark Reynolds will probably still be at third. That could change after that season, but it would get messy.
Trading Hardy would likely mean finding a holdover for the next couple of years until Machado can be the everyday shortstop at the big league level. That would make the call-up decision a lot easier.
Cons: There Will Be a Big Hole at Short Until Manny Machado
I mentioned the list of terrible shortstops for the past couple years. Trading Hardy would mean a return to the Dark Ages where shortstops make silly errors constantly or unable to hit a baseball.
Machado is far enough away that it would be a huge deal to have to wait through a terrible shortstop. Hardy is the only one who can really make a difference until the phenom arrives.
Pros: Less Money to Pay
Hardy is making just under $6 million this year and would likely get a little more per year in an extension.
The other options are younger and cheaper and could be paid league minimum. The tactic would infuriate fans of the team because the product would be awful, but it could mean more money to spend later.
Cons: The Team Would Lose More
Hardy has shown this year that he is a difference maker on both sides of the ball. His defense would likely be more missed than his offense because he is a superb fielder.
That said, his power isn't really matched by any other middle infielder in the organization right now, so losing his presence would make the lineup much worse.