Are the Baltimore Orioles Overvaluing J.J. Hardy?
“What’s the word above overwhelmed? Stunned?” he said.
That response from Showalter begs the question, are the Orioles overvaluing Hardy?
It’s reasonable to assume that general manager Dan Duquette could likely work out a deal with the Tigers to trade Hardy to them for a package that brings back starting pitcher Rick Porcello in return. So what’s the hold up, assuming of course that the Tigers do in fact covet Hardy as much as stated?
The holdup is the fact that Showalter and Duquette are either talking up Hardy’s value to the team exponentially in an effort to get a better deal from the Tigers, or any other team interested in him, or truly do believe he is worth well above Porcello and whatever else the Tigers may or may not be offering (Jhonny Peralta is rumored to be included but there’s no concrete confirmation of that anywhere).
Over the past
three four seasons, 2009 to 2012, Hardy is 11th overall in WAR at 11.4 among all shortstops and has a .250/.300/.450 batting line. He’s hit the third most homeruns at his position, 69, with only Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki having hit more. Adding more value to Hardy at the shortstop position is that he is second overall in fielding, with a 37.1 mark according to FanGraphs, and is only bested by Brendan Ryan who is listed at 42.3.
However, the biggest knocks on Hardy are that he has a difficult time staying healthy over his career and doesn’t hit for a particularly high average or even walk at a more respectable rate. He’s played in the third fewest games (503) since 2009 among all shortstops with at least 2000 plate appearances and his career high in games played came last season at 158. The only other time he has played in 150 games or more in his career was in 2007 when he played in 151.
The two factors that contribute the most value to Hardy is that he is widely considered to be the best defensive shortstop in all of baseball, aside from Brendan Ryan of course, and he is signed to a very team friendly contract for two more seasons at seven million per year. In 2011 when he had a huge season offensively for the Orioles he had an excess value, according to FanGraphs, of $21.7 million dollars. This past season when his offense was abysmal and he was only valuable on defense he still had an excess value of $12.5 million dollars.
Given the information we have about Hardy’s performance history, durability, and team friendly contract through 2014 it is easy to say he’s one of the more valuable shortstops in baseball relative to the cost invested in the production he gives you. But you also have to take into consideration that he’s not a superstar by any means and it is very unlikely he suddenly improves his offense that will dramatically increase his value overall. His defense is solid but everything else about him, from his offense to his durability, could be considered fairly inconsistent at best.
Trading Hardy, who is at best a four win player at this point in his career but is more likely to be a three win player, wouldn’t hurt the Orioles as badly as some assume it would. While the left side of your infield defense would take a short-term hit you do have Manny Machado who would provide at least league average defense there, as it is his natural position, and you could find someone to provide you league average defense at third base (such as Peralta).
If you are able to get a return package of a 24 year old starting pitcher who has yet to hit his prime and a player that could provide you that league average defense at third base then I do not believe there should be any hesitation on the Orioles part.
Regardless of what the Orioles decide to do with Hardy I will close with this; it is better to trade a player a year too early then it is to trade him a year too late.