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On J.J. Hardy and How To Build the Orioles

The ink is dry (or soon will be) on an extension to keep J.J. Hardy in Baltimore. How one feels about this is entirely dependent on how one feels the O’s should go about cleaning up the mess in which they find themselves.

One argument holds that the extension is a good thing because it locks up a quality player in his prime who fills a need. If Hardy left, that would have meant plugging the shortstop hole yet again. And, probably, one more time before Manny Machado is ready. Assuming, of course, that Machado sticks at short and doesn’t ultimately become a third baseman.

On the other hand, Hardy represented a bargaining chip that could have brought two or three young prospects in return to help stock a farm system that needs all the help it can get. That option is now off the table and MacPhail has less to work with at the trade deadline as he seeks to right the ship.

I pitch my tent in the “good deal” camp. I’m always a little weirded out by the mentality of “trade every valuable chip” because the first thing I think of is, “what next?”

Think about it this way: if Hardy should have been traded, wouldn’t it make just as much sense (and more) to trade Adam Jones? Or Nick Markakis or Jake Arrieta? If the thinking is “let’s trade the guys who will bring a strong return” then you have to go all the way.

Do that and you end up with a potentially awesome farm system at the expense of the actual Orioles for two to three years. I can see the argument, but I’m not signing on. “Prospects” are just that until proven otherwise. I’m fairly tired of waiting.

No, Hardy needed to stay. Just like Jones and Markakis and Arrieta (and Matusz and Britton) need to stay. The guys who are young or in their prime — who fill needs and have proven that they have something to offer — need to stick around. There’s no point in getting rid of proven, needed players and hoping potentially good players can replace them in a year or three. We need smarter thinking than that.

I’d like to see the Orioles build by holding onto strong contributors while trading guys who can potentially be replaced with decent or semi-decent internal and/or free agent options. Along the same lines, I’d also like to see them become more willing to trade prospects of their own for solid major leaguers.

You want to trade Oliver Drake? Josh Bell or Jim Johnson or Chris Tillman or Koji? Or Nolan Reimold, as much as I like him? OK. Let’s see about the return. Those guys don’t hit us at the top level. If another team sees value then the move makes sense.

(Side note: the move always makes sense if the return is spectacular. I’m only talking about normal deals here.)

It’s easy to trade guys with value. It’s likewise easy to hold onto guys too long, or hold onto the wrong guys. The nexus of when and who is where smart teams get better and bad teams get worse. I’m no longer convinced Andy MacPhail is solidly in the former group, but I’m fairly certain that holding on to Hardy doesn’t put him in the latter. The price was right to keep a solid contributor and MacPhail did that. As long as the right moves can be made around it I think there’s a good chance we look back and call the extension a win.

I am, admittedly, assuming a lot there. These days you can’t really project an optimistic future for the Orioles without making a few potentially suspect leaps. So it goes.

16 comments to On J.J. Hardy and How To Build the Orioles

  • Yeah, this just seems like a solid move. You also have to love that he wants to be here and that he’s only a year older than Markakis. He’s good for the pitchers, Camden is a good fit for his type of power, you can bat him almost anywhere in the lineup, and you can brag that the Orioles have the best shortstop in the AL East.

    I remember early in the year Hardy said that the Twins tried to make him a line drive slap hitter, but the Orioles told him to let it fly like he did as a Brewer. Good move.

  • Mike R

    I’m on the fence about the deal. If Hardy finds himself on the DL often, then you still have the hole at SS without addressing the other needs either, we shoulda traded him. If he plays 150+ games and keeps up the near .500 slugging % over the next 3 years, they made the right move.

    I’m glad I didnt have to make the decision. I don’t know what I would have done.

    I wonder if Andy shopped around to see what teams would give us for Hardy. It probably wasn’t good enough.

  • Andrew

    To which I will respond: Okay, we extended Hardy. What next?

    The team is horrible, one of the worst in baseball. How do they get better now? You say “I’m fairly tired of waiting”. Well, that’s not good, because the current state of things means you’re going to still be waiting for another year or two.

    What next? How do the Orioles get to be really good if not by trading their valuable players right now?

  • Where’s the Fenway South post?

  • neal s

    @ Joe the Guy: Not sure what you mean by that.

  • @ Joe the Guy:
    Here in Baltimore, we wear hats the same color as our baseball team, not our cotton candy.

  • neal s

    @ Andrew: Weird – got caught in the spam filter. Sorry ’bout that. It’s happened a couple of times lately.

    I guess the thing is that I’m done with the wholesale rebuilds. I don’t want to see us create new holes with trades, I want to see us trade to fill holes.

  • Andrew

    @ neal s:
    No sweat.

    The only problem is that the Orioles can’t “trade to fill holes”. That’s nice in theory, but nobody’s giving up a Yonder Alonso for the guys we’re actually fine with showing the door (which I guess I would list as any reliever, Felix Pie, any number of generic bench doods, Matt Angle, and Chris Tillman). If you’re saying you won’t give up good pieces in a trade, you’re saying you simply won’t trade for anything worthwhile.

    Which is fine, if there’s some other plan in place. But I can’t see what it is.

    (And don’t get me wrong, this is far from a bad contract. Under market value for a good player. I’m pretty worried though, because it looks like the Orioles have a medium-term core full of good supporting players with nobody to support.)

  • Mike R

    Yeah man. Them Red Sox sure were tired after that 16 inning marathon the night before. Not getting into Baltimore until early this morning really took a toll on them.

    Fucking embarassing

  • dan the man

    @ Mike R:
    I’m so sick of the Red Sox being this impossible, unbeatable team. How many times have we seen the O’s score a bunch of runs on them or mount these epic comebacks only to face the inevitable?

    When it comes down to it, we might be able to hang with them for 7 innings of a baseball game, but then the third or fourth time through ELLSBURY PEDROIA YOUKALIS GONZALEZ ORTIZ CRAWFORD starts to fucking get to you. And that Matt Albers is pitching to a 2 ERA for them is icing on the cake.

  • dan the man

    It seriously is pretty much time to say goodbye to Mike Gonzalez. There has got to be somebody in the farm system that can outpitch Gonzo at this point. Maybe you can sling Vlad for a major league reliever. Bring Accardo back. Something. Steve Johnson. Anything.

  • Mike R

    We need to start rooting for the Royals, Cubs and Astros. They’re blocking us from getting that #1 pick next year.

  • @ neal s:

    Sorry for the confusion, just trying to start a fight. like Kevin Gregg.

    Thought it was interesting that there 28,000 people at OPACY on a MONDAY night

    I did the ‘Fenway South’ trip last year. Cheaper than Fenway. Amazing atmosphere.

    Honestly though, it saddens me how many stud Oriole pitching prospects have failed in recent years.

  • dan the man

    Well that felt good. Even though Simon pitched a nice game against the Indians, tonight’s game felt like the first real deal Major League Pitching Performance out of the starting staff in a long ass time. Once the game was 3-2, it was like, here we go.. how long can you contain the Red Sox. Nice to finally have that scenario swing our way for once.

  • sci

    Was thinking about everything that’s gone wrong this year, and the list is pretty mind-boggling:

    – Our starting 2B, arguably the key to our lineup, has basically been hurt the whole year, with no return in sight.

    – Our 1B free agent pickup has been hurt a lot of the year, and has not really hit at all until recently. Has basically no trade value.

    – Our vaunted DH pickup started OK, but tailed off to where he’s become a liability in the lineup, and is now hurt, thus killing his trade value.

    – Our starting LF, out of whom we could at least expect 20 plus HR and 70 plus RBI, has been hurt basically the whole year, and at this point can’t really hit or field and might need season-ending surgery.

    – Our primary backup outfielder, Pie, has been atrocious.

    – Our backup infielders (and whoever starts at 2B) have been pretty much awful, leaving a hole in the lineup wherever they hit.

    – Our key young starter, Matusz, has been hurt the whole year and is only now seeming to begin to round into shape. It’s been a wasted year in his development up to this point.

    – One of our other key young starters, Arrieta, can’t seem to get past the sixth inning, ever, and has really not been very good, if we’re honest.

    – Bergeson has been basically useless.

    – Tillman has not progressed in any way, and is sitting in the minors.

    – Duchscherer (sp?) has been pretty much the worst case scenario — he’ll never pitch a game for the O’s.

    – A total lack of depth at the AAA and AA levels of the minors has been revealed, with no real impact players at either level.

    Wow. No wonder things are where they are.

    Some positives too, no doubt, but this season has become pretty much the worst case scenario.

  • dan the man

    @ sci:
    And to round it all out, we get to watch Matt Albers mow down Oriole hitters as a Red Sock!

    Shit ridiculous, as Kanye would say.