Why the Orioles Should Consider Dealing J.J. Hardy Instead of Resigning Him
Now I love J.J. Hardy and think that he has been a great addition to the Baltimore Orioles, but in the end trading him might be their best move. I understand the appeal in resigning him, since it can lockup one of the hardest positions to fill on the diamond with a pretty good player, until the Orioles top prospect Manny Machado is ready. But the problem with that is you waste perhaps your best trade chip, and while it does make the Orioles a better team for the next couple of years. If you make the right move you can land far more value, over a longer period of time.
The Orioles have already ‘won’ their offseason trade for Hardy, where they sent Brent Jacobson and Jim Hoey to the Twins for Hardy and Brendan Harris. Now they can take a victory lap by dealing Hardy for multiple pieces. Right now a number of contenders could use a serious upgrade at shortstop, including the Giants, Pirates, Brewers, Cardinals, Reds, Braves and Rays. And for some teams like the Pirates, Giants, Cardinals, and Rays the fact that he is a free agent in the offseason could be for the best as these teams aren’t looking to clutter up their payroll books. The Cards, Brewers, and Pirates are all looking to make a strong push this year and could look to make a splash. With Jose Reyes now looking like he is staying in New York, Hardy becomes far and away the best shortstop available.
Here are some possible trade scenarios with these various teams:
Cardinals: 1B/OF Allen Craig, LHP Jon Gast and SS Ryan Jackson
Craig is often overlooked, but he offers good power and is a solid defender at 1B, and passable in the OF. He might never be a star, but he could be a solid 1B/LF/DH option that would give the O’s a ton of flexibility. Gast is a lefty with some upside and while I wouldn’t consider him an ace, he could develop into a nice mid-rotation starter. Jackson could be a cheap stop gap for the O’s next year as they wait for Machado, long term he is at best a UTL guy.
Brewers: RHP Cody Scarpetta and 1B/3B Mat Gamel
The Brewers don’t have much in their system right now, but the O’s could still find some value. Scarpetta is a good solid starter who has a chance to still develop into a number 2 pitcher (more likely a number 3), while Gamel is a big time power prospect. Gamel is probably best suited for DH duty as his defense at 3B is pretty bad. He is another cheap power guy and could be a 25-30 HR guy with a good average.
Pirates: CF Starling Marte, UTL Brandon Wood, LHP Colton Cain
Marte is a big time prospect, though he’s not really a need for the O’s as they have Adam Jones. He could potentially move to a a corner though and if not is still really young to offer re-trade value. Cain hasn’t lived up to his draft bonus promise just yet, but he’s a young lefty with potential and you can never have enough of those. Wood is mainly here to give the O’s a SS option for the next couple of years, but he could be a good UTL player for them as well.
Giants: 3B/1B Chris Dominguez, RHP Henry Sosa, LF Thomas Neal
Dominguez could give the Orioles their 3B of the future and at worst should be a 1B or DH for them. He’s got a good bat and might only need one more year in the minors. Sosa was once one of the Giants top pitching prospects, but his value took a tumble last season. He’s seemed to right the ship this year and could be a back of the rotation starter. Neal also has fallen down the ranks of Giants prospects, but he still appears to be a starting caliber LF, despite the drop in power numbers.
Reds: 1B Yonder Alonso
This could be a good straight up trade for both teams, as the Reds have a stuck top prospect in Alonso and the Orioles need some pop at 1B/DH. The Reds have begun to hurt the value of Alonso by holding on to him this long (Joey Votto isn’t going anywhere) and then trying him in LF. It might be a rental for the Reds, but they’d get draft pick compensation and it would fill a huge hole that they have.
Braves: RHP Arodys Viscaino, LHP Carlos Perez, 2B Phil Gosselin
This is an upside trade for the Orioles as Viscaino and Perez both have big time potentials, but are far from sure things. Viscaino is a lot closer to the majors, but he still might need two years. Perez could need more like 3-4 years, but the potential is worth it. Both pitchers could be 2′s or 3′s at the next level, but you are going to have to wait for them. Gosselin is a UTL type who could move quickly through the minors and would be a solid final piece to this deal. The Orioles would probably need to kick in a reliever to make this deal work, but given the Braves pitching prospects, they would make a great trade partner.