J.J. Hardy, shortstop
Was the trade worth it?
J.J. Hardy is not the typical Tides player. He played three games in Norfolk on a rehabilitation assignment, and even recovering from injury he demonstrated that he is clearly a major-league caliber player.
The Orioles acquired him from the Twins in the 2010-2011 offseason because the Twins were trying to dump salary. The cost was pretty cheap — Hardy and Brendan Harris for Jim Hoey, a hard-throwing but unpolished relief pitcher, and another second-tier pitching prospect. On the first level, the trade was obviously a good one; Hardy just last year probably provided the Orioles with more wins than the pitchers they gave up will provide for the Twins. Hardy is a fairly good defensive shortstop with an effective power bat — even though he doesn’t walk much or get on base, he has enough power to be useful if he can hit .270, and he usually hits .270. He was a definite upgrade over Cesar Izturis.
But on the next level – will he help the Orioles contend — I’m not sure he does. The Orioles are a bad baseball team, probably two or three years away from being ready to contend. Hardy probably won’t be able to contribute at that time, he’ll be 31, starting his period of probable decline. The Hardy trade is very similar to what Andy MacPhail, then the Orioles GM, did when he ran the Cubs — take advantage of bargains even if the bargain doesn’t fit into the long-term plan.
But, in context, unlike some of the other similar moves, the Hardy acquisition is, on the whole, beneficial. The Orioles had no young shortstop worth looking at; their in my opinion top prospect is a young shortstop, Manny Machado, who is two or three years away. He’ll be ready to step in just when Hardy is starting to decline. So there’s no real downside to using Hardy; he’s not interfering with the long-term plan and helping you win in the short term.