25 June 2011

Cup of jO's: What to do with J.J. Hardy?

The Orioles took last night away from the Reds in 12 innings with the 5-4 final score.  In the top of the twelfth, Adam Jones did not play Jay Bruce double well.  The encourage the Reds to send Joey Votto home, but the relay and Wieters at home were solid, preventing the run to score.  A few moments later, lineup protector Derrek Lee lifted a shot into the left field stands for a walk off home run.  It was his first home run in a little over a month and a half.  It was not an incredibly pretty win, but it was against a team that has a solid offense and decent pitching.

One more note...Blake Davis earned his first major league hit with a two run triple.  Congratulations to him.


I was reading the Sun's Matt Vensel's interview with Heath Blintiff of Dempsey's Army (and our Last Week in Chat post on Mondays that we host for him).  Toward the end of the interview, Heath mentions that one of the primary things the Orioles need to do is sign J.J. Hardy to an extension.  I'm not sure I entirely agree with that.  J.J. Hardy is experiencing a career year at 28 years old for a shortstop.  These kind of performances warrant contracts of about 5-6 years in length and north of 10MM.  With Hardy's background, he will not make the killing Jose Reyes will make this off season, but he will be a far more reasonable options for someone willing to squint their eyes and massage over the injuries as well as an uneven history.  I think much of the glamor on him comes from his impressive 2007 and 2008 seasons where he was able to show good contact and a very good glove.  I'm not sure we can completely trust that 2009 and 2010 were abnormalities.  However, those seasons might melt away with his 390 wOBA which is just 2 points away from the leader, Jose Reyes.  This season, J.J. Hardy is an elite shortstop again. 

Earlier this season, I was in full favor of extending Hardy.  Keeping him under contract for 2-3 additional years would enable the Orioles to have a good hitting and fielding shortstop while we wait for Manny Machado.  Additionally, Hardy could slide over to third if needed.  I think at the beginning of this year, the team could have extended Hardy for about 7 or so MM a year.  This off season will consist of basically him and Reyes at shortstop with several shortstop hungry teams.  I think it has made extending Hardy misguided and may largely be impractical with the Orioles apparent budget.  Hardy is a bit of a risk that I would be fine with at 7MM, but not 14MM.  I also think we need to consider how much longer he will be capable of playing shortstop as he is not particularly quick.  A five year extension with Hardy might be similar to what we are seeing with Brian Roberts.

This leaves us with the best solution when handed a position player who is having a career year at a shallow league wide talent position and is only being paid a few million over the rest of the season . . . a trade.  I think a decent comparison could be drawn to the Athletics and Cardinals trade that sent Matt Holliday to St. Louis for Brett Wallace, Clayton Mortenson, and Shane Petersen.  This was a trade for a player who was struggling in Oakland, but had a history of success and a somewhat sizable remaining contract.  Hardy is someone who has had success in the past, recent injuries, recent incredible performance, and a cheap contract (~2.5MM left) at a premium position.  Where the A's were able to receive a first tier and two third tier prospects.  I think the Orioles could must a low first tier and two low second tier prospects.

So who is in need?

San Francisco Giants
The Giants thought they were solving their shortstop problems by installing Miguel Tejada at shortstop.  Unfortunately, they apparently had only a highlight reel of him to use to gauge his defense.  As much as I love Tejada, this season is likely to be his last.  He has no defensive value at shortstop and he has none at the plate.  In the past, poor performance has been explained away as being the product of him being an emotional player and not being in a playoff situation.  With a tight NL West, it just is not much of an excuse.  His replacement has been Camden Depot shadow draftee Brandon Crawford whose glove plays excellently in the majors.  However, he hits as well as the starting rotation and the Giants need more offense if they truly want to compete.

The key in a deal to the Giants would be Brandon Belt.  He is a legitimate top 25 bat at first base.  The Giants did not immediately find success with him this season and if they want to play for now . . . they may be willing to sell off part of the future.  Belt would be the Orioles Brett Wallace in this scenario.  I think he is a better prospect than Wallace was, but there really is not another high level prospect available in the Giants organization except for lower level pitcher and Camden Depot shadow draftee Zach Wheeler.  The second player I would target would be 3B Adam Duvall a 22 year old in low A ball.  He is a fringe C level prospect who has shown more power and plate discipline this year, which may convince some to push him up to a B level prospect.  He does have issues with contact and not much of a track record of success.  I would also go with Jason Stoffel for the third piece.  I have always liked him.  He does not do anything particularly spectacular, but he can pitch.  He could be a middle relief arm in 2012 or 2013.

Milwaukee Brewers
Yuniesky Betancourt is killing them up the middle and three teams are within three games of them.  The Brewers need some help and would be much better off with their ex-SS J.J. Hardy in their lineup.  This might be Prince's last year in Milwaukee, so it might be their last shot.  However, J.J. and the Brewers did not exactly leave on the best terms possible as they demoted him which tacked on an extra arbitration year.  Another stumbling block is that the Brewers system does not contain any readily identifiable gems.  You could go with a quantity trade with Taylor Green, Khristopher Davis, and Matt Gamel.  Maybe throw in a couple pitchers like Thornburg or Peralta.  I don't think this is something that the Orioles should do though.  It made sense when our system was thin on depth, but we have depth now.  What the system lacks are top tier prospects.  I don't see any in the Brewers system.  They have several guys who have a chance of being MLB players, but we already have too many players like them.

Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are also hurting with Paul Janish and Edar Renteria at shortstop.  Only three games out, they are in prime position to take the NL Central.  The clear target here would be Yonder Alonso.  The Reds are playing him in left field with the idea that him and Joey Votto can co-exist on the field.  He is not taking well to left field.  Another issue is that he is a bit of a platoon type hitter.  He may be a poor man's version of Ryan Howard.  However, he is a very good first base talent.  He is a high second tier type player.  Another player I would target as a top third tier guy with high upside is 2B Henry Rodriguez.  At 21, he has earned himself a promotion to AA and shows good contact and batspeed.  If he continues his progression, a solid infield of the future could be Alonso, Rodriguez, Machado, and Schoop.  That could be an optimist's dream.  Todd Frazier's ability to play anywhere on the field would also make him a decent target.

I think we can all agree that the Brewers should not be considered.  They just do not have the right pieces.  The Giants are known to value immediate contribution over long term value, so they may be the easiest to deal with.  They certainly have the best piece available in Brandon Belt.  The Reds are slightly more averse to selling away the future, but they have several upper tier prospects.  No one is as highly regarded as Belt, but both of their catching prospects have high marks.  The Orioles would not be interested in the catchers, but in positions for which the Reds already have occupants.  If I was in charge, I would be targeting Belt first, then Alonso, and then shrugging and paying Hardy for 4-5 years recognizing I'd probably be fired before it becomes obvious that the extension was a bad idea.

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