Orioles Sign JJ Hardy

Word is that the Orioles have extended JJ Hardy, keeping him in Baltimore for three more seasons at the cost of around $22.5 M. Is this a good deal? Well, sort of.

Hardy is a good player, and I’m a big fan (as I’ve more than made clear since the team traded for him). A career year at the plate this season (.275/.333/.490) has him at 1.8 fWAR already despite missing some time. He’s not likely to continue hitting at this level – ZiPS has Hardy projected at .269/.325/.447 for the rest of the season, which is very solid for a shortstop. That would make him above average with the bat; add in his plus glove (-2 UZR this year, but +9.6 per 150 games career) and you’ve got something like a 3.5 win player over a full season. But you can’t really expect a full season from Hardy – so perhaps ~2.5 might be a more reasonable estimate.

Assuming $4.8 M per win for 2012 with 4% inflation thereafter and a half win decline from Hardy per year, that would make Hardy’s production worth around $30 M over the next three years. So $22.5 M is good value, I think. And a nice aspect of it is that even in the last year he shouldn’t be overpaid, unlike many longer terms deals where you often get surplus value in the early years but give it back in the out years.

This is a better deal than I thought it would take to lock Hardy up (though if the contact would have started this year – ie, if he had signed before the season instead of now – it would have been better). The question is, should the O’s have extended Hardy at all?

Given where the team is right now, it might have been better to trade Hardy for some prospects. Having him around as a bridge to Manny Machado (who looks like a consensus top 5-7 prospect in baseball) is nice, but is the difference between 73 and 76 wins in 2012 really worth giving up a chance to set themselves up better for when Machado and (hopefully) Dylan Bundy start showing up in Baltimore? Very possibly.

On the bright side, the contract looks reasonable enough that if Hardy doesn’t drop off a cliff (I wouldn’t think so, but it’s hard to say given the O’s recent history) they should be able to at least pick up an OK prospect if they deal him in the next year or two (though he does have a limited no-trade clause). So I’m cautiously optimistic about this move – it’s not exactly like the Brian Roberts signing – but I’m not sure it does anything to significantly improve the O’s chances of making the playoffs in the next 10 years.

Stats: Projections, WAR, UZR,