During a post-season press conference (or perhaps it was a pre-off-season conference) Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski listed some ways he could make the team better during the off-season. He didn’t focus on the shortstop position for any length of time (offensively he focused more on the outfield), but did mention that the team “could be more athletic at shortstop”. The club has already picked up the team option on Jhonny Peralta – so they’re comfortable with him at short for another year – but that doesn’t mean they won’t look to upgrade the position (defensively) before spring camp begins.
One player that could be available is Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy. He wouldn’t be a shortstop of the future – a player-type that John has argued in favor of – but he would lock down the position for the next couple of years defensively while also providing reasonable offensive production.
The Orioles haven’t said that they’re looking to move Hardy, but they have their own shortstop of the future waiting in the wings in 20 year-old Manny Machado. Machado got the call up to the big leagues in August, and finished out the regular season and playoffs as the club’s everyday third baseman. They could continue along that path for the length of Hardy’s contract, or they could look to move the veteran to allow Machado to slide into his (hopefully) long-term position. Grant ran through this scenario in his Hot Stove Armchair GM post.
Hardy is first and foremost a rock-solid glove. His career UZR/150 (runs saved above average per 150 games) rates him as +10.9 runs (never being worse than +6.6 in a single season) and his career DRS (defensive runs saved) similarly would rate him as +9.8 runs per 150 games. Needless to say he’s quite a bit rangier than Peralta, an attribute that would be most welcomed with Miguel Cabrera anchored (almost literally) at third base.
Offensively, Hardy is a step below Peralta. He’s also coming off of a poor season at the plate where he put up a slash line (.238/.282/.389) and, although he’s had some nice peak seasons, he rates as a below average hitter for his career (a career 95 wRC+). That’s below average when rated against all hitters, however, when only comparing to shortstops (who have a typical wRC+ of around 87), he’s actually quite good. His platoon numbers are larger than Peralta’s so he would be a bigger help against left-handed pitchers (who the Tigers struggled to beat last year).
Hardy is signed through the 2014 season for a total of $14 million – a relatively cheap $7 million per season – so his contract looks to hold a decent amount of surplus value. He’ll be paid to provide roughly three WAR over the next two season combined, but he could potentially double that production. The Orioles likely know all this, so they won’t be inclined to give him away cheaply.
It’s always hard to predict a return package, but the Tigers could possibly send Peralta the other way – the Orioles would be looking for a third baseman – but the Tigers would still need to sweeten the pot in order to make the deal work out.