Hu Could Play Short For The Orioles?

Much like all Jayson Werth posts need a “worth” pun, all Chin-lung Hu posts need a “who” pun. Sorry.

Word is that the Dodgers are looking to trade 26 year-old shortstop Chin-lung Hu. Given that the Orioles have a definite need at the position after this season, it might be something to look into.

Hu has been given only 328 plate appearances in the majors, spread over three seasons. His .200/.253/.300 career line is pretty terrible, and projections for him for 2010 aren’t that much better, coming in around .255/.300/.360. That would make him Cesar Izturis with a bit more pop (and a greater chance of improvement). In the minors, Hu showed the ability to hit for average but he never walked that often and it’s been a couple years since he’s displayed much power (he did slug over .500 in 2007).

Defensively, Hu was a little above average at shortstop in his very small number of innings in the majors with a +1.3 UZR/150^. In the minors, he’s posted some very good numbers according to Total Zone. Hu was +15 runs (+21 per 150 games) at shortstop in 2009, +4 runs in 2008 (in just 42 games), and so on going back. The guy has a good glove, and CHONE projects him to be about +9 runs per 150 games next year.

If Hu can play the kind of shortstop in the majors that he did in the minors – while not being a complete zero with the bat – then he’d be a close to league average player in a full season. On the down side, Hu should still be able to carve out a career as a defensive minded utility player – a Robert Andino plus (largely with the glove) – which would be worth a couple of runs above replacement a year.

With very little service time in the majors, a team would have 6 years of control over Hu. If we split the difference on his potential and call him a 1 Win player (ignoring improvement or decline), then with a win being worth around $3.5 M this off-season, increasing by 7% a year thereafter, and the usual 40-60-80 breakdowns for arbitration awards, Hu would be worth about $15 M in excess value to the team. If he was still eligible, that would point to him being considered around a 50th ranked prospect in baseball. That seems high to me, but Hu does have that relatively high floor going for him, and such a comparison isn’t completely fair.

The question then comes down to what the Orioles would have to give up in a trade with LA. Given Hu’s ceiling (not that high), his lack of success in the majors thus far, and no real good place on the Dodgers, I wouldn’t imagine the cost would be all that high. I don’t see any really good place where the teams match up though – maybe a Jason Berken type to compete for the 5th starter spot, or another reliever (Cla Meredith after his good spring)?

If a move was made, Hu would take that role I discussed previously as a guy that could fill in for Brian Roberts if he’s hurt while moving to shortstop next year as a starter unless the team found someone better. While not an impact move, I think it would be a solid acquisition.