JJ Hardy recently completed his 3rd season as a member of the Baltimore Orioles. Back in July 2011, the SS signed a 3 year extension with the O’s through the 2014 season.
When Hardy signed that extension, the prevailing thought among O’s fans was that Hardy’s ability to stay in Baltimore over the duration of that contract was going to be tied to development of Manny Machado.
(You can discuss this post on the BSL Board here.)
Is Hardy’s pending future with the O’s still tied to Machado? Should it be? What do you think Hardy’s future with the O’s should be?
My thoughts are that while Hardy is past his prime, he is still relatively young (he turned 31 in August); even for a Middle Infielder. In 2011, and through the 2012 season, I would have leaned towards the idea of ultimately wanting Machado to take over SS for the Birds. At this point, Machado’s play at 3rd has been so overwhelming that I think that is where he should remain. I don’t see a need to have him change positions. While a bullet seems to have been dodged with Machado’s injury; that scare makes me even less concerned with moving him back to his original position.
Since I do not believe Machado should be moved, the question for me becomes do I want Hardy to continue on as the O’s SS?
When you get to that question, there are other things to consider. Can you do better than Hardy? What would it take to retain him? What is the likely-hood of him providing the production you would need from him, to match or exceed the contract it would cost to retain him? What is the team capable of (or hoping to achieve) during the years he would be under contract? If you moved him, what could you get in return?
The answers to each of these questions begins with a review of Hardy’s 2013 season.
Offensively, there are no surprises of what Hardy is after 4,200+ ab’s in the Majors. He is a .260 hitter, that struggles to get on-base, and has some pop.
2013 saw Hardy finishing with .739 OPS, right at his career norms (.740 OPS career).
The only thing that stands out to me about Hardy’s year offensively is that after striking out 106 times in ’12, he struck out just 73 times in ’13. (K% dropping from 14.9% to 11.3%.)
Defensively his errors doubled (from 6 to 12), and his UZR/150 dropped from 10.9 to 6.1; but you know what you are getting from him there as well. He is exceptional at making the routine play, and that has tremendous value. He has a quick release, and is good around the bag. His range won’t wow you, but you never worry about the playing being made.
While ESPN’s David Schoenfield used the qualifier that there was no obvious choice at the position; he did choose Hardy as the American League’s best SS based on those combination of skills.
One of the more important aspects of Hardy’s ’13 season is that after playing in 158 games in ’12, he played in 159 games this year. Those back-to-back years of durability are nice to see, and for me alleviate some level of concern over his availability over the next 2-3 years. Yes, he will only be more likely to incur injuries during his age 32-34 seasons, but at-least in the immediate time frame prior to that; he has shown an ability to stay in the lineup consistently.
Over the past three seasons, FanGraphs has calculated his Wins Above Replacement and Salary worth as:
2011: 4.3 WAR, worth $19.4M
2012: 2.6 WAR, worth $11.8M
2013: 3.4 WAR, worth $16.8M
Having reviewed Hardy’s ’13 season, let’s go back to the questions.
1) Can you do better than Hardy?
Answer: The first part of answering that is identifying the time frame of the question. If you are not moving Machado to SS, it seems unlikely to me that there is a scenario where you could improve upon the league’s best returning SS for the 2014 season. Could you do better than Hardy in ’15, and ’16? That is debatable, but the odds increase with the expectation that there will be some level of regression as Hardy ages further. More on this with question 3.
2) What would it take to retain him?
Answer: If 2014 is a replication of his career norms, he will absolutely get at-least 2 years from someone, and likely 3. Most O’s fans (and likely the O’s themselves) would be comfortable with a 2 year deal through the ’16 season. The idea of a 3rd year begins to become uncomfortable for some. BSL Radio Host Rob Shields recently floated the idea of rewriting Hardy’s ’14 contract (currently scheduled to make $7M), and adding 2 additional years on that. That seems logical to me.
3) What is the likely-hood of him providing the production you would need from him, to match or exceed the contract it would cost to retain him?
Answer) Over the last 2 years, Hardy has been worth an average of $14.3M per year. If you bumped Hardy’s ’14 pay to $10M, and gave him 2 yrs $20M on top of that; I think Hardy would justify that deal.
4) What is the team capable of (or hoping to achieve) during the years he would be under contract?
Answer) The Orioles will be trying to again contend in ’14. The Front Office would only be justified in extending Hardy through ’16, if they believed he was a needed component to allow contention to continue through those seasons.
5) If you moved him, what could you get in return?
Answer) The O’s obtained Hardy prior to the 2011 season for Brent Jacobson, and Jim Hoey. At the time he was 28 years old coming off of back-to-back injury riddled seasons (he played 115 games in ’09, ’101 in ’10). Even with Hardy being 3 years older, I would imagine he currently has more trade value than he did then. While I think he might bring back more now than the O’s traded for him, I doubt he would bring back enough for me to want him moved, or not extended.
Those are my thoughts. What do you think?