Luis Hernandez, Juan Castro, Brandon Fahey, Alex Cintron, Elder Torres and my boy, Freddy “Boom Boom” Bynum. Under Andy MacPhail we have come a long way from shortstops of these caliber, and finally we have upgraded over Cesar Izturis and his career .296 OBP and 64 OPS+ (100 being average). We finally have an above average Shortstop in birdland, the first since Miguel how old am I Tejada.
The number one argument for keeping Izturis, and if you’ve watched many games on MASN you’ve heard it numerous times, is that his defense is superior. But is it really?
According to fangraphs UZR/150 and Baseball Reference Runs Saved, Defensive WAR and Range Factor Per 9 inn:
Izturis 09’ UZR/150: 12.1 RF/9: 4.89 Rdrs/Yr: 13 DWar: 1.1
Izturis 10’ UZR/150: 5.8 RF/9: 4.28 Rdrs/Yr: 3 DWar: .6
Hardy 09’ UZR/150: 9.2 RF/9: 4.40 Rdrs/Yr: 3 DWar: .4
Hardy 10’ UZR/150: 12.8 RF/9: 4.60 Rdrs/Yr: 6 DWar: 0
Hardy will keep the AM Plan to stay strong defensively up the middle. His stats are pretty strong defensively and he is definitely an above average defender. Izturis has been praised way too much for his glove, and I think in the Orioles community it has not been noticed that Hardy will be able to provide as adequate of defense up the middle for our young starters. Hardy is 28, in the prime of his career, and unlike last season where he was bothered by wrist injuries, should be able to break out offensively. In Hardy’s first two seasons in Milwaukee he has amassed 89/26/80 and 78/24/74 seasons with WAR’s of 4.4 and 4.9 respectively. If Hardy can find the power he had two seasons ago, which honestly I find reasonable, he would represent a five win upgrade over Cesar Izturis. This is why I think it is important to lock up a shortstop. Shortstops obviously are mostly offensively deficient, and I believe when you have an above average defensive shortstop, in the prime of his career with 20 homerun pop, you lock him up. Hardy can be a top 12 shortstop when he reaches his potential, and I think this would be incredibly valuable as the Orioles have traditionally weak positions (2B, SS, C) filled with good defensive players, that are among the top 10 offensive threats at their positions respectively. Hardy is facing his final year of arbitration (luckily the Brewers sent him down leaving him just short of Super Two status). Hardy made $5.1mil last year and will get a raise to somewhere in the $5.5-6.5mil range. That type of contract would be equivalent to the value of about 1.5 WAR. Even in a down year offensively, Hardy was able to have a WAR of 2.8/1.4 Fangraphs/Baseball-Reference.
Bill James is predicting a 64/16/62/.263/.753 stat line for Hardy. I think this is a very safe estimate, and if Hardy is able to stay healthy, and assuming the Orioles lineup reaches its potential I think 70/20/70 would be possible, and Hardy could have a WAR of 3-4, reaching the potential he showed in 07’-08’ in Milwaukee. If we are unable to sign Hardy to an extension this season, he enters a free agent core of SS’s which include, per MLBtraderumors:
Yuniesky Betancourt (30) - $6MM club option with a $2MM buyout
Ronny Cedeno (29) - club option
Craig Counsell (41)
Adam Everett (35)
Rafael Furcal (34) - $12MM club/vesting option
Alex Gonzalez (34)
J.J. Hardy (29)
Omar Infante (30)
Cesar Izturis (32)
John McDonald (37)
Edgar Renteria (35)
Jose Reyes (29)
Jimmy Rollins (33)
Ramon Santiago (32)
Marco Scutaro (36) - $6MM club option/$3MM player option with a $1.5MM buyout
Miguel Tejada (38)
Jack Wilson (34)
There really are no attractive options assuming Rollins and Reyes stay with their respective NL East big money spenders. I really would not like to have a 36-year old Marco Scutaro at shortstop either. Manny Machado is at least 3 years away. I think a fair extension offer would be 3 years/$30million. This is the same extension that Rafael Furcal signed two seasons ago. To wrap up this extension year we could make it 4 years/$36million including this season. I remember how bad 2008 is, and I believe it is important for us to have an above average weapon at shortstop if we are to make our way into becoming an above average team. I am still very dissatisfied with our middle infield depth in the minors, but I like Givens and Machado and look forward to seeing them in Orioles uniforms. What do you guys think, would you like to see how he fairs as an Oriole before we extend him? Do you think a run at a Reyes or a Rollins is possible next season? Is $36 million too much to give to an injury prone shortstop? Please discuss, and I hope you enjoyed my first post in Camden Chat.