Who Is The Orioles Most Valuable Trade Chip?

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This entire talk about which Baltimore Orioles is or is not ‘tradeable’ is completely nonsensical.  Everyone is tradeable if the right deal came along.  Therefore, the proper question to ask is what would the Orioles be willing to trade a certain player for?   Which leads to the next logical question, and the one I want to focus one, how highly should the Orioles value their players?  The recent trade talk has been mostly focused Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy.  So which player, Hardy or Wieters, should the Orioles value more and thus demand more to part with?  To answer this question, let’s look at it from three different angles: production, salary and team need.

Production:

Looking at Wieters’s and Hardy’s Batting Average/On Base Percentage/Slugging Percentage from last year it is clear that Hardy has the distinct advantage with a slash line of .263/306/.433 compared to Wieters’s .235/.287/.417.  Though a snapshot would give the advantage to Hardy, taking a step back and looking at a more complete picture causes things to get a bit murkier.  Career numbers Hardy’s .260/.312/.428 is near identical to Wieters’s .255/.319/.420.  The Orioles need to decide if Wieters’s below average year last year was the norm or just an aberration.  Complicating this picture further is the notion of potential.  Most people would say Wieters has a higher ceiling, which he has not yet reached whereas Hardy will probably never be significantly better than he is right now.  Of course, just because Wieters has a higher ceiling certainly does not guarantee that he will achieve that higher ceiling.  The Orioles have been known in the past to wait a bit too long for players to live up to their potential (any word on if the Orioles have resigned Nolan Reimold?).  There is undoubtedly greater upside with the younger Wieters, but more consistency and surety with Hardy.

Salary:

JJ Hardy is set to make $7,000,000 this year in the final year of his deal.  Matt Wieters still has two years left of arbitration making him a free agent in 2016.  With both the players’ contracts ending either this year or next, this discussion quickly turns to resignability.  Talk around town (fueled by of all people Buck Showalter) has been that the Orioles don’t have much of a shot at resigning Wieters.  I would like to take a moment to pause and think about this for a minute.  This whole discussion about resigning Wieters is surrounded by the nebulous mutterings of Oriole fans who all seem to go back to the same three words: 1.Overpriced (yeah, yeah, name me a free agent who’s not overpriced), 2. Boras (the Orioles have signed many Scott Boras clients, and if they say they’re not dealing with Boras then there’s about 100 players, including several current Orioles, that the Orioles will have to avoid) 3. Angelos (am I the only one who remembers Adam Jones signing the largest contract in the history of the Orioles… 86 million… stingy Angelos).  Matt Wieters will certainly command not just more money than Hardy but also a significantly longer deal.  With all that said, I think it’s very possible that the Orioles resign Wieters when his contract is up; whereas with Hardy it is probable that he resigns next year (shoot, now, after chiding others, I’m the one throwing out nebulous mutterings).

Team Need:

The catcher and shortstop positions are both crucial positions on a baseball team.  We are not talking about just trading away an interchangeable part like the closer (cough trade Jim Johnson cough cough).  Trying to imagine a lineup or a defense without Hardy or Wieters is difficult and frankly unpleasant.  Hardy is replaceable at SS with Manny Machado and Danny Valencia could slide over at third, but if the Orioles do this, it would be a downgrade defensively and offensively.  Wieters could be replaced by… time to look up free agent catchers… Jarrod Saltalamacchia, or more optimistically Brian McCann, or more realistically Kelly Shoppach.  The Orioles currently lack a smooth transition with losing either Wieters or Hardy.

Final Thoughts:

JJ Hardy is an integral part of this team, and arguably the best shortstop in all of baseball.  If you want to trade him, now is the time, but the Orioles better get something back of significant value that more than makes up for the consistency that Hardy brings both offensively and defensively.  Wieters makes more sense as a trade token, just not right now.  He’s coming of his worst year and this decision can be put off till next off season.  All offers should be considered, but if another team does not blow the Orioles away with an offer, Hardy and Wieters should stay put.

Matt Sroka can be found each week on the Section 336 Podcast, part of the Baltimore Sports Report Network.