It's been pretty hard to ignore JJ Hardy in the last couple of games. He homered late in the game on Tuesday and went 2-4 last night while also making a couple of difficult plays at SS. So, I thought, why not put together a trade for him?
Hardy is currently slashing .307/.369/.547, which is good for a .394 wOBA -- second in the big leagues among SS to only the incomparable Jose Reyes, everyone's favorite trade target, who is on pace for 70+ steals and 30+ triples which is nearly Albert Pujols level of ridiculous. UZR doesn't rate his defense all that good this season (-2.7 runs so far), but in ~5000 innings of play coming into this year Hardy was worth an average of 9.5 runs over 150 games. In fact, since he entered the big leagues in '05, Hardy has been the best defensive SS in baseball by UZR. He is currently owed about $3.2M for the rest of 2011 by my back-of-the-napkin calculations, and will be a free agent at the end of the season. The Orioles are supposedly in talks to extend him, but if they can't I don't think there's any doubt that they will be looking to deal him.
I think the O's would require at least a couple of B prospects to acquire him. Interestingly, their farm system is very, very thin at the outfield position (as well as being stocked with good SS prospects including Manny Machado), something that could make the Cardinals a potential match for them in the trade market as the outfield is one place where we have some real depth. Luke Scott is a free agent after the season, Nolan Reimold has been less than impressive since his initial call up, Felix Pie looks like a complete bust, and they really don't have anyone who can fill that left field spot for them in the high minors. I think that makes Jon Jay or Allen Craig an trade asset, as well as possibly a minor league outfielder with tools, like Tommy Pham or Adron Chambers.
But wait! I'm not done! The Orioles also have Mike Gonzalez. Yes, THAT Mike Gonzalez. Hear me out, though. Gonzalez is a free agent after the season is is owed around $3.5M for the rest of 2011. While he's not been great overall, look at his splits against lefties this season:
56 TBF, 15.00 K/BB, 2.09 xFIP, and opponent average of .222 with a BABIP of .270
He hasn't been lucky, he's been good. Now, he hasn't gotten a right handed hitter out all season (well, he walks most of them: Out of 70 RHB faced he's walked 12) and ~$3.5M is a lot to pay for a LOOGY, but it gives Baltimore a chance to save some money and gives TLR the LOOGY that he sorely needs in the pen. I think Gonzalez is a good gamble and one we should take as desperate as we are for a left specialist. Yes, I'd like Koji Uehara too, but I don't see Baltimore dealing him for peanuts, so Gonzalez is really the next best bet.
My proposed trade?
* Cardinals get: JJ Hardy, Mike Gonzalez, assuming their contracts for the rest of 2011 ($6.75M)
I think that's a trade that the O's would have to look strongly at. They get a major league outfielder in Jay, a toolsy outfield prospect in Pham or Taveras, and an arm with upside, as well as saving almost $7M for the rest of 2011.
The Cardinals get the SS that they sorely need, enabling them to move Ryan Theriot to 2B while keeping him at leadoff, and also give TLR another option for having a power hitter in the 2 hole or the 6 hole in the lineup, as well as getting the LOOGY that could help shore up the biggest hole in the bullpen right now.
I like this deal much more than a proposed Reyes trade, where we'd have to give up a lot, and more than the rumored Heath Bell trade, in which we'd be on the hook for more guaranteed money and be getting back crappier players.