As we progress through the first month of the off season one question that always lingers in people’s minds is whether or not the Baltimore Orioles will make any major moves this winter via trade. The fact is that the O’s don’t have too many pieces that could yield them anything worthwhile on the trade market, short of players they would want to think twice about dealing. According to www.mlbtraderumors.com, some of the Birds’ potential trade pieces would be the likes of Zach Britton, Brian, Matusz, and Steve Johnson. Britton I think could be a guy who Dan Duquette might be able to market as a great “change of scenery” guy, and in theory you could throw Johnson into the mix with him as well. Matusz I suspect would be tough for the Orioles to trade on their end given how he’s looked in the bullpen.
Having said that, the Orioles’ top priority is landing a #1 starter this off season. So ask yourselves, would any of the three aforementioned players net the O’s a pitcher of that caliber? Probably not (no offense to any of those guys). So for just a moment, let’s go back to the concept of trading someone that the Orioles might not want to trade. We all recall last season when J.J. Hardy was made into a lukewarm commodity on the trade market I presume. There were a couple of teams interested in Hardy, and of course the Detroit Tigers all but penciled him in as their starting shortstop for the season. (They were offering Rick Porcello in return, so obviously the O’s made the right decision.)
Would Hardy be someone that the Orioles might consider trading? All signs point to no, and in fact my personal prediction is that he’s starting at shortstop on Opening Day in Baltimore. However, short of offering someone like Chris Davis or Matt Wieters, Hardy might be the only player that could in theory yield a noticeable return (especially if he wins his second consecutive Gold Glove tomorrow). He’ll be a free agent in 2015, so in theory his value is about as high as it’s going to be right now. We know that there was interest last year in him, and obviously there wasn’t anything that he did in 2013 that would have decreased that interest.
It’s worth mentioning that putting Hardy on the trade block would put the Orioles in a position of power. A team with a serious need at short might be more inclined to give the Birds what they want. (Although if history is any indication teams will still have no problem thinking they can squeeze the Orioles.) With that said, keep in mind that Hardy is currently a part of an infield that made a record-setting low of 54 errors over 162 games this past season. Would the Orioles really want to give that up? Furthermore, Hardy’s a fan favorite. While teams in general need to stay away from making emotional decisions and so forth, there would be a portion of the fan base that would be very upset if he was gone. And quite frankly I think that’s a mutual feeling; Hardy seemed to bond with the team and the fans from the moment he arrived. He signed an extension in 2011, so obviously he’s on board with Baltimore being the right fit for him.
Again, my prediction is that he’s playing short on Opening Day in Baltimore. Part of that is because I don’t think anyone’s going to offer the Orioles anywhere near what they would expect from Hardy. However that’s also due in part to the Manny Machado situation. While there are questions as to whether it would be smart to move Machado off the hot corner with how he’s played since August of 2012, we all know he came up as a shortstop. However with his injury situation it’s tough to know whether or not he’ll be ready on Opening Day. (That’s the team’s plan, but it’s still unknown medically.) If the Birds traded Hardy with the plan of moving Machado to shortstop, there would be a chance that they’d in theory have to fill two holes at the beginning of the season. Obviously they’d have to find a new full-time third baseman, and if Machado wasn’t ready to go they’d have to find a shortstop. And in the long-term, Machado is a known commodity at third base in the bigs at this point. Shortstop…not so much.
Trades are always a leap of faith on both sides, and for the record I do believe that you sometimes have to take a risk in order to win. However I would submit that it’s better to take calculated risks, and trading someone like J.J. Hardy would be much more than a calculated risk. Time will tell.