Saturday, December 24, 2011

Andy MacPhail's Christmas Gift to Baltimore

The Orioles have plenty of holes to fill this offseason and seemingly every offseason. But there is one critical position that they do not have to fill. Shortstop.

You could make the argument that the rarest commodity in the free agent market this season is a shortstop who can hit and field his position well. (OK, good all-around catchers and starting pitching is probably a rarer commodity.) But thanks to the dealings of former team president Andy MacPhail over the last year, the O's don't have to overpay for that talent now.

Last December, MacPhail dealt a couple of minor league relievers to the Twins for SS J.J. Hardy. For a couple of spare parts, Hardy turned out to be a low-cost, low-risk gamble that paid off big for the O's. Hardy played a good defensive shortstop, posted an .801 OPS and had 57 extra base hits. It was a performance from a Baltimore shortstop that we haven't seen since the early days of the Miguel Tejada era.

Knowing how tight the shortstop market would be after the season, MacPhail and the Orioles signed Hardy to a 3-year extension for a total contract of $22.5M. Given Hardy's age and skillset the contract stacks up very well to what other free agent shortstops are getting this offseaon.

                 AGE   3-year OPS+  3-year WAR total   Total Contract  Yearly Average
J. Reyes          29      120            9.9               $111M          $18.5M
J. Rollins        33       91            9.3                $33M          $11.0M
R. Furcal         34       98            8.2                $14M           $7.0M
Y. Betancourt     30       77           -0.7                 $2M           $2.0M
J.J. Hardy        29       98            8.7              $22.5M           $7.5M

In a market where Ronny Cedeno is now considered a hot commodity and other free agents are going for much more, Hardy's extension looks like a relative bargain.

And unlink some other free agents signed last offseason to play in Baltimore, Hardy actually will be a tradeable commodity come July.

No, Hardy is not the player Reyes is when he's healthy and Hardy certainly has some injury risks of his own but he is very likely to fill the shortstop position until Manny Machado is ready to take over or bring back some other prospects to replentish the farm system. And the Orioles don't have to overpay this offseason to get a competent shortstop.

Thanks, Andy. You had many good moments as GM but Hardy may turn out to be one of your better ones.

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