JJ Hardy No Longer A Potential O’s Acquisition

I discussed the possibility of the Orioles trading for JJ Hardy previously, and it looks like that potential move is off the table now as the Brewers have dealt him to the Twins for outfielder Carlos Gomez. Is that an offer the O’s could have or should have beaten?

Quoting what I said previously about Hardy:

“JJ Hardy was a 4.9 Wins Above Replacement player last year, and a 4.5 WAR guy the year before that.  This year that’s down to 1.5 WAR.  His defense is still good (+8.7 UZR), but his offense has fallen off from .283/.343/.478 (.355 wOBA, including SB) to .229/.300/.367 (.294 wOBA). One of the main reasons for the drop is his .258 Batting Average On Balls In Play, though that isn’t too out of character given his 13.3% line-drive rate. He is walking more though (up to 9.3% of the time, which is about average), and showing decent patience at the plate. If Hardy spends at least 20 games in the minors the rest of this year, the team controlling him will have not only 2010 but also 2011 before he’s a free agent.

If you assume going forward that Hardy is half way between how good he was in ’07 and ’08 and how bad he’s been this year, you’ve got yourself a 3 to 3.5 WAR player (and at only 26 years old he should really just be entering his peak). Since arbitration players get about 80% of their value in their third (and fourth) arbitration years, Hardy would provide the team that controls him around $6 M in excess value.”

If Hardy bounces back to the 4.5 WAR area, then it would be more like $8 M. Also, Hardy is unlikely to actually get 80% of his value in 2010 given his down year this year, so if his salaries are $5 M and $8 M the next two years than he would actually be a bargain to the tune of about $15 M.

Carlos Gomez is a no-hit, all-glove center-fielder. He’s hit just .246/.292/.346 for his career, but is one of the best defenders in baseball at +14.2 UZR/150. Word is that he’s a Super-Two player, so Gomez will be under team control through 2013 but will be eligible for arbitration four times instead of the usual three. If you call him a 2 Win player (likely high, but I’m being positive), Gomez will provide his team around $13.5 M in excess value during that time (assuming the usual 40%-60%-80%-80% breakdown, which may not be fair since all of Gomez’s value is tied up in his defense, which won’t get him as much money). There are some concerns that Gomez will never hit enough to be more than a fourth outfielder, but I assume that since the Brewers actually traded for him they’ll give him every chance to start.

Felix Pie, by way of comparison, is a career .244/.305/.383 hitter but his most recent season – .266/.326/.437 – gives reason for optimism with the bat. He’s not as good of a defender as Gomez (only +8.3 UZR/150 career in center), and so is actually less valuable overall – call him a 1.5 Win player. Pie is also under team control through 2013, but he will only be eligible for arbitration three times. That means that while he’s not quite as good of a player, he’ll provide more excess value to his team (about $14.5 M). It seems like the Orioles could have acquired Hardy from the Brewers for Felix if they had wanted too (maybe having to toss in a nondescript minor league reliever). It would have been a solid move, and if they could have resigned Hardy to a below market rate then it could have been a steal.

I’m comfortable with going into 2010 having Cesar Izturis at shortstop for the O’s and I’m a Felix Pie fan, but I will admit that picking up a player of Hardy’s caliber would have been exciting. I can understand not making the move if they don’t feel like they can compete at all in the next couple years though.

JJ Hardy was a 4.9 Wins Above Replacement player last year, and a 4.5 WAR guy the year before that.  This year that’s down to 1.5 WAR.  His defense is still good (+8.7 UZR), but his offense has fallen off from .283/.343/.478 (.355 wOBA, including SB) to .229/.300/.367 (.294 wOBA). One of the main reasons for the drop is his .258 Batting Average On Balls In Play, though that isn’t too out of character given his 13.3% line-drive rate. He is walking more though (up to 9.3% of the time, which is about average), and showing decent patience at the plate. If Hardy spends at least 20 games in the minors the rest of this year, the team controlling him will have not only 2010 but also 2011 before he’s a free agent.If you assume going forward that Hardy is half way between how good he was in ’07 and ’08 and how bad he’s been this year, you’ve got yourself a 3 to 3.5 WAR player (and at only 26 years old he should really just be entering his peak). Since arbitration players get about 80% of their value in their third (and fourth) arbitration years, Hardy would provide the team that controls him around $6 M in excess value. [Edit: So, subtracting is sometimes hard.  I had the excess value at $11 M originally, so the following trade packages should all be discounted by a fair amount.] To acquire that would cost the Orioles something like Brandon Erbe and a C+/C prospect. [Even just Erbe may be too much after the correction - a slightly lesser pitching prospect then.]  If you assume Hardy would be a Type-A free agent at the end of his time, then his value goes up to around $16 M.  [$11 M.] Now we’re looking at Jake Arrieta plus maybe a C prospect, or Erbe and a Steven Johnson type guy (plus maybe a C prospect).  [Erbe works better now, or Erbe plus a C+/C prospect or just Arrieta at the very highest end if you think Hardy will bounce back a little stronger.] On the other hand, Jeremy Guthrie is also having a down year after two solid seasons.  His highs weren’t as high as Hardy’s (and his low this year is lower), but he’s been in the AL while JJ is playing in the (weaker) NL and Jeremy is under team control for longer and is currently cheaper. That seems like it would be a reasonable swap, though I’m pretty sure Andy MacPhail is loath to give up his only (relatively) dependable veteran starter.  The Brewers main need is pitching though, so it’s either the veterans that are stabilizing things now or the youngsters that the team is placing their hope of future contention on. I, personally, would be OK with trading Guthrie (but not Arrieta or Erbe) and using some of the money coming off the books this year to sign a better veteran starter to take Jeremy’s place – perhaps John Lackey?