Tag: JJ Hardy

Derrek Lee, JJ Hardy, Kevin Gregg and Mark Reynolds: All Signs of Improving O’S

Going into the 2010 off season, the Baltimore Orioles had seemingly the same needs as they do every off season: first base, shortstop, third base, closer, and starting pitching.

They tried to get by, like they do every year, with the cheap patch-work signing of Cesar Isturis, who failed miserably, hitting just .230 in the process. Thankfully, this year he will be in a more suitable role of back-up utility infielder, where he still could hold some value off the bench.

Comparing the starting lineups per position of most games played, which would you rather have?

2010 Orioles                                            2011 Orioles

1B Ty Wigginton                                      Derrek Lee

2B Brian Roberts                                     Roberts

SS Cesar Izturis                                      JJ Hardy

3B Miguel Tejada                                     Mark Reynolds

LF Felix Pie                                            Pie ??

RF Nick Markakis                                   Markakis

CF Adam Jones                                      Jones

C Matt Wieters                                       Wieters

DH Luke Scott                                        Scott

Improvements all across the board (and I really mean it this year!)

Across the board Lee, Hardy, and Reynolds are upgrades over their predecessors. Overall, the team ranked 27th in MLB in runs last year with just 613. The three players that left, Tejada, (15HR 71 RBI), Wigginton, (22HR, 76RBI) and Izturis (1HR 28 RBI) (demoted) combined for 38HRs and 175RBI respectively.

Their replacement-upgrades on the other hand, Mark Reynolds (32HRS, 85RBI), Derrek Lee (19HRS, 80RBI), and JJ Hardy (6HR 38RBI) combined for 57HRS and 203 RBI. Heck, Reynolds and Hardy alone hit as many homers as the previous trio and that doesn’t even factor in Derrek Lee’s 19 bombs.

In addition, Reynolds (27), Lee (35) and Hardy (28) average 30 years of age compared to 33 for Tejada (36 allegedly), Wigginton (33), and Izturis (30). For those thinking that experience and veteran leadership will surely be lost, consider that they didn’t exactly win with that wisdom last year, so getting younger can’t hurt and the players they brought in are hardly washed up in any sense like in years past with the Orioles.

In fact, I see Derrek Lee having a Bobby Bonilla or Eddie Murray type veteran impact and influence on this team like in the mid-90s, when the team was making annual playoff pushes. Its a move more typical of Pat Gillick’s deadline deals, so look at it as they got him a few months early.

For those thinking they did okay on offense but they forgot to address defense, each player is also known for his defense. In Lee and Hardy’s case, it could be argued their defense is actually better than their offensive game, which in Lee’s case is particularily complementary since he’s such a solid hitter.

What about the pitching?

For those thinking Andy McPhail addressed only offense and defense but neglected the pitching, the team not only kept middle reliever Koji Uehara, who improved once he found his niche in the bullpen, but also added closer Kevin Gregg from divisional rival Toronto, thus directly hurting them and forcing them to downgrade to Octavio Dotel.

While Gregg had a high (3.51) ERA last year for a closer with the Blue Jays, he did amass 37 saves, which would rank almost three times as many as saves leader Uehara’s 13. Besides, if someone else had signed him, say the Boston Red Sox, they’d be praised for strengthening an already solid bullpen and for giving themselves options should Jonathan Papelbon get himself into trouble.

So the Orioles did what they had to do, and in Lee and Gregg’s cases, overpaid for free agents who normally don’t want to come there for obvious reasons. In each case, minus Hardy, who I think will have the least impact of the quartet but remains a mild upgrade nonetheless, ask yourself this, “If not him. than who?”

We know in Lee’s case it would have been Adam LaRoche and while he too would have been an upgrade, we now have the next year to evaluate how he does in Washington. We can wonder what he may have done in Baltimore as his stats will be compared nightly to Lee’s and see who came out better on the deal.

For me personally, I was pulling for LaRoche initially because of his consistency (20+ hrs in six of seven big-league seasons including three straight 25) but I was swayed by the fans’ desire from message boards to blogs for the more professional veteran perceived to be the more complete hitter in Lee. We’ll see who won out.

So what does it all mean for 2011?

With the Rays‘ inevitable demise (although I think their starting pitching will keep them in more games than people think) and likely falling to the cellar, logic would suggest the Orioles would simply ascend to 4th, but not so fast, my friends.

Look at the New York Yankees who didn’t make a single upgrade to their current roster, having only kept icons Derek Jeter, who had the worst season of his career, and Rivera, who contrary to reports, wasn’t going anywhere. I refuse to give them credit for keeping their guys.

They failed to upgrade a bat in Carl Crawford and with it, youth and speed. They failed to land Cliff Lee to go with a weakened, aging, and thin starting rotation. At this point it’s Sabathia, Burnett and pray-to-God that Andy Pettite comes back.

With him, I think they finish no higher than 3rd, due to their continued lack of starting pitching and adding no impact free agents or youth. Yes they got Russell Martin, but that’s it.

Without Pettite I think there is a very serious battle for 3rd with Baltimore right behind Boston (1st) and Toronto (2nd) who lost only Gregg among its impact free agents. (I love their Rajai Davis move by the way.)

Long story short, I was going to have the O’s finish some five games or so behind the Yankee$ for third anyway, just to show the gap has been closing, and because of the O’s lack of starting pitching.

I still think they need to add a 15 game winner (Garza would have been perfect) and I have no idea how manager Buck Showalter got that staff to go 34-23 to finish the season (the team’s record).

Still, if they can get a lead with their hitting and hold it for five innings, qualifying that starter for the win before they go to their bullpen, as of today, I’m going to go bold and say they finish 3rd, something around 83 wins. But my projections will come out in mid February or early March when all the moves are done.

In a perfect world (outside of winning the division), they could finish 2nd and vie for the Wild Card, but that’s simply too optimistic with that lack of starting pitching. They also have to be careful not to succumb to too many changes too quickly in fitting in the new guys.

Still, a hot start (April and May) mixed with a solid finish (August and September like last year) would allow for some back-to-reality falling, which I predict, in the summer months of June and July, will get them their 3rd place finish.

The hot start would infuse optimism like in 2004 when Tejada, Lopez, and Palmeiro came to town, giving me memories of 1996-97, the last time the team made the post-season only to see that dashed. The strong finish would give people hope for next year and have them end on a positive note instead of the Blue Jay-esque hot finish last year that no one knows what to make of.

That Wild card push could come next year if they expand the playoffs to include two Wild Cards. Many people including FoxSports.com’s John Paul Morosi are so quick to just hand to Toronto. Next year is not our year, but for the first time since the 2003 offseason, it could be closer than it’s been for a long time. If you are sensing the parallels to the 90’s and the references I am making, you are not alone.

They say it’s not how you start but how you finish, but in the Orioles’ case, why can’t it be both?

Information and statistics from ESPN.com directly contributed to the content of this article.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

MLB Trades: 15 Important Minor Trades You May Have Missed This Offseason

Blockbuster trades, like the one that sent slugger Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox, get all of the attention from fans and analysts. But they are no more or less important than any other trade a general manager might make this offseason.

These under-the-radar trades are a valuable way to fill up a final roster spot, or to acquire some depth for the big league team or to bring in prospects as part of a rebuilding effort. No team can be built entirely from major trades and big free agent signings, and these deals show that winning in baseball is harder than it looks.

This offseason has been one of the busiest in recent memory, and dozens of players are now with new teams. Here is a look at the 15 most important minor trades made so far.

Begin Slideshow

Derrek Lee Signing Completes Orioles Infield, but How Much Will It Help?

After weeks of speculation, the Orioles finally signed their first baseman to finish the rebuilding of their infield. 

Derrek Lee will join recent signings J.J. Hardy and Mark Reynolds in making up the Orioles new infield, and more importantly, inject some power into an offense that was horribly stagnant in 2010.

The trio of Lee, Reynolds and Hardy will no doubt be better than last year’s trio of Ty Wigginton, Miguel Tejada and Cesar Izturis. However, exactly how much better it will be and whether it will be noticeable is a different story.

Starting with the pessimistic view – because after 13 terrible years, it is all the average Orioles fan has – all three are coming off dreadful seasons.

In fact, all three were very similar in that they saw diminished production due to spending the majority of the season playing through injury. 

Reynolds had issues with a quadriceps, Hardy had a deep bone bruise in his wrist, and Lee spent the entire season playing with a torn ligament in his right thumb.

This means that the entire Orioles infield will come into this season as injury prone. In addition to the injuries of Hardy, Reynolds and Lee, The Orioles infield is comprised of Matt Wieters, who played 130 games, and Brian Roberts, who was limited to just 59.

Considering the Orioles can’t afford another terrible season with this young core, a team full of injury-prone players seems like a big risk.

Lee is also 35 years old and many have questioned his bat speed and exactly how much he has left in the tank.

On the other hand, the Orioles just bought these three guys at their lowest possible values. They got Reynolds and Hardy with a couple of low-level prospects, and Lee with a one-year deal worth somewhere between $8 million and $10 million. 

If they can get healthy, all three can be solid players and could be the pieces the Orioles were missing last season. 

Reynolds is good for 40-plus home runs a year, and Hardy has good power for a shortstop. Finally, Lee has consistently batted .300 and been good for at least 20 home runs and 80 RBIs every season.

In comparison, the trio of Wigginton, Izturis and Tejada hit just 30 home runs and 143 RBIs in 2010 combined.

Add the numbers of the Reynolds, Hardy and Lee to the production outfield of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Felix Pie/Nolan Reimold, and the Orioles could have a fairly productive offense. 

It may not strike fear into pitchers like it would if management had been able to sign Paul Konerko or Victor Martinez, but it will be able to score runs pretty consistently, and that’s what’s important.

With the Red Sox getting better by adding the likes of Carl Crawford and the Yankees being, well, the Yankees, it is hard to predict what the Orioles will do in 2011.

However, after spending seemingly an eternity in the pits, maybe the Orioles are close to seeing the sun rise.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Fantasy Baseball Fallout: Winter Meetings Days 3 & 4: Crawford, Konerko & More

The past two days were extremely busy at the winter meetings, highlighted by some shocking developments.  Let’s take a look at everything that happened (for my thoughts on Days 1 & 2, click here and here): 


The Boston Red Sox Signed OF Carl Crawford

Talk about the rich getting richer.  All indications had been that Crawford was headed out to Los Angeles before the Red Sox swooped in with a seven-year, $142 million deal.  It is hard to figure exactly where Crawford fits into the lineup, though you have to figure he’ll hit either third or sixth at this point.

The bottom line is that the Red Sox lineup got so much deeper with the addition of Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez.  Either way, the top six in the lineup features Crawford, Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis and David Ortiz.  You will be hard-pressed to find a group with that much talent and that much potential to score runs.  All of their stocks went up just a little bit.

However, if Crawford does ultimately hit sixth you have to think that at least a little of his value will be lost.  He needs to be hitting in front of Gonzalez, Youkilis and Ortiz, where he will be able to utilize his speed and score a significant number of runs.  I have to believe the Red Sox will hit him third, but time will tell. 


The Baltimore Orioles Signed P Koji Uehara

When Alfredo Simon and Michael Gonzalez went down with injuries, the Orioles turned to Uehara to close out games and he responded with flying colors.  He posted a 2.86 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, showing great strikeout potential (11.25 K/9) and impeccable control (1.02 BB/9).  It’s hard to imagine him maintaining those types of numbers, but given the unknown in the Orioles bullpen he will likely get an opportunity to close once again. 

The strikeouts will likely fall.  The walks will probably rise slightly.  Still, he posted his success with a .317 BABIP, so a little more luck and the numbers would still be solid.  He’ll be worth owning in all formats, though it’s hard to call him a lock to close for the entire year.


The Padres Acquired SS Jason Bartlett from the Tampa Bay Rays for P Adam Russell and P Cesar Ramos

The Rays get two bullpen arms, something they desperately needed.  Both pitchers will likely fill a middle relief role, however, so don’t look for them to have much value.

Bartlett is a nice player, but his fantasy appeal is limited.  He offers no power (29 career HR in 2,501 AB despite hitting 14 in ‘09 alone) and moving to San Diego, he’s going to have even less.  There’s a little bit of speed there, but you are probably talking about 20 SB with little upside in runs and average.  He’s a low-end option, at best, especially in what figures to be a low-powered offense. 


The Phillies Signed P Dennys Reyes

The Phillies get their left-handed reliever.  That’s good for them, but it is meaningless to fantasy owners.


The Royals Signed OF Melky Cabrera

Now things get interesting in Kansas City.  You would have thought that they’d want to give their youngsters an opportunity, like letting Jarrod Dyson be a spark plug at the top of the order and in center field.  Instead they bring in an outfielder who brings no power and no speed.  Hopefully he’s going to be the fourth outfielder for the Royals and not take at-bats from someone who could be useful.


The Chicago White Sox Signed 1B Paul Konerko

His value would plummet if he left Chicago, though you have to expect a regression anyway.  He posted a 19.5 percent HR/FB rate and a .326 BABIP, two numbers that could fall in 2011.  He’s going to be usable for sure, but we’ll go into much more detail in the near future.


The Seattle Mariners Signed DH Jack Cust

He’s one of those potential high power, low average guys.  Of course, his HR/FB has fallen for four straight years, from 31.7 percent in 2007 to 14.9 percent in 2010.  If he’s not going to hit over 30 HR, he’s not going to have any value.


The Kansas City Royals Signed OF Jeff Franceour

I feel like he has been rumored to be going to the Royals for the better part of a year, but he finally landed there.  He’s a streaky hitter and really doesn’t bring enough in the power, speed or average department to justify trusting him.  However, when he gets hot, he has value.  Hitting in the middle of the Royals lineup, he could be worth using in five-outfielder formats at times.  Keep an eye on him, but don’t consider him a regular.


The Milwaukee Brewers Signed C Will Nieves

He’ll be a backup for the Brewers and as a career .227 hitter with five HR in 701 AB—you can easily forget him.


The Atlanta Braves Signed P George Sherrill

He was once a closer, but those duties will likely fall to Jonny Venters, Craig Kimbrel or a combination of the two.  There’s little chance that he gets opportunities for saves, so he’s not going to have value to fantasy owners.  Obviously, if something changes you’ll want to scoop him up off waivers, but for now he can be ignored.


The Cincinnati Reds Signed INF Miguel Cairo

He’s a utility infielder, meaning his value is nil.


The Los Angeles Dodgers Signed C Dioner Navarro

Navarro could share time with Rod Barajas to replace the departed Russell Martin behind the plate.  There was a time that people thought Navarro could develop into a must-use option, but he’s never hit more than nine home runs in a season and sports a career .249 average.  Maybe he finally puts it together, but even those in two-catcher formats can ignore him for now.


The New York Mets Signed P Boof Bonser

At this point Bonser figures to be organizational depth and nothing else.  He’s not worth worrying about.


The Arizona Diamondbacks Signed P Mike Hampton

Remember when he actually was fantasy viable?  Not anymore.


The Seattle Mariners Signed C Miguel Olivo

He certainly has power, consistently posting a HR/FB of 12 percent, leading to 12-16 HR a season (outside of his 23 HR breakout in 2009).  He’s not going to hit for an extremely high average, though then again most catchers aren’t going to.  Considering he figures to get regular at-bats (the only other option they have is Adam Moore right now), who should be worth considering in two-catcher formats.  As far as where he sits in the rankings, we’ll address that soon enough.


The Baltimore Orioles Acquired SS J.J. Hardy and INF Brendan Harris from the Minnesota Twins for P Brett Jacobson and P Jim Hoey

Hardy’s one and only season in Minnesota did not go as planned, hitting .268 with six HR and 38 RBI.  He still holds significant upside, as it wasn’t long ago that he hit 50 HR over two seasons with the Brewers.  As a late-round flier, he’s well worth the risk.  It certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see him hit in the 18-HR range.

It appears that the Twins are prepared to hand everyday at-bats to Alexi Casilla.  He has some speed, but no power and likely is only going to hold value in the deepest of formats.


The Houston Astros Signed P Ryan Rowland-Smith

He’ll likely battle for the fifth starters spot, but with a career 5.46 K/9, he’s not going to hold much value.


What are your thoughts on these moves?  Who is the biggest winner?  Who are you now targeting?

Make sure to check out our early 2011 rankings:


Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

JJ Hardy Vs. Carlos Gomez: Twins or Brewers Trade Winner?

When the Twins and Brewers swapped Carlos Gomez and J.J. Hardy in the off-season, Minnesota GM Bill Smith and Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin were looking to improve their squads.

As both teams crank up the second half of the season they find themselves in third place of their repsective divisions. Both players have spent time on the DL this season; Gomez for a strained rotator cuff and Hardy for a wrist injury. They also share the same number on their jersey, but the similarities end there.

So who’s gotten the better end of this deal?

Here’s my attempt to rate the performance of both players and the impact they’ve had on their team. I realize it’s a little like comparing apples to oranges, outfielders to infielders, or sports cars to sedans, but I’ll give a shot anyway. 

Let’s start with J.J. Hardy:

Hardy, currently batting .241, below his career average of .260. He has picked it up lately, batting .321 over the last past 10 games.

Like the Twins, he started the season displaying some power, hitting two home runs in in the first series of the season against the Angels. His last home run came on April 23rd against the Royals.

He is well behind his career average of 20 home runs for a 162 game season.

He has played in only 48 of the team’s 91 games this season. If he played every remaining game this year, he would only exceed his five-year career average of 114 by five games.

The Twins were hoping that a change of scenery would help Hardy to rebound from a down season in 2009. In 2010 his average is up, but not much else.  

With less than half the season remaining there’s no way Hardy can match his career averages of 29 doubles, 20 home runs, and 74 RBI. 

After 91 games in 2009 the Twins found themselves at 47-44, third place in the AL Central.

2010 they are only a game better at 48-43, still third in the division, two and half games behind the first-place White Sox.

Now looking at Gomez:

Gomez is batting .239, just below his career average of .245. Like Hardy he has done well over the last 10 games batting .267.

He has two more home runs than Hardy in 30 more at-bats. With five home runs going into the second half of the season he is sure to exceed his career high of seven set in 2009.

With eight doubles, two triples and 20 RBI, his numbers projected over the full season would match up well with his career averages.

Known for his speed, Gomez has stolen 10 bases this season. If he continues to swipe them at his current pace he should reach 20, which would be his second highest season total in his short career.   

For the Brewers, after 92 games in 2009 they were 47-45 in the NL Central, three games behind and in third place.

For 2010, they have dropped five games from 2009, currently at 42-50, again in third place, but nine games out of first, behind the Reds and Cardinals.

Based on the performances of each player the edge has to go to Gomez, who will perform closer to his average than Hardy. 

If you base it on the records of the Twins and Brewers, than Hardy might have the edge since the Twins are one game better and the Brewers five games worse.

The tie-breaker could in their salaries and the expectations of the management and fans for each club.

At $1.1 million, Gomez seems to be a steal compared to Hardy’s $5.1 salary.

At this point I give the edge to to “Go-Go” Gomez.


Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

J.J. Hardy Injury: Minnesota Twins Shortstop Lands on DL

The injuries just keep on coming for the Minnesota Twins.

In March, the club lost All-Star closer Joe Nathan for the year after he underwent Tommy John surgery.

Last week, reigning American League MVP Joe Mauer sat out with a heel injury that threatened to land him on the disabled list.

And just today, the Twins placed shortstop J.J. Hardy on the 15-day disabled list with a left wrist contusion. Hardy initially sustained the injury sliding into third base on a triple a week ago.

The move is retroactive to May 4, meaning that Hardy can be rejoin the big league club next Thursday in Boston for the finale of a two-game set against the Red Sox.

Hardy was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers last fall for outfielder Carlos Gomez who—ironically enough—also landed on the disabled list today with a with a left rotator cuff strain.

Prior to the injury, Hardy—a notoriously streaky hitter—was off to a less than impressive start at the plate. Through the season’s first 25 games, Hardy posted an uninspiring .250/.299/.400 batting line to go with three home runs, 11 RBI, and four doubles.

In essence, the time off could do Hardy some good as it’s largely believed he’s been pressing at the plate in an effort to prove that his dreadful 2009 was an aberration.

To fill in for the injured Hardy, the club recalled infielder Matt Tolbert from Triple-A Rochester.

Aaron Gleeman of Hardball Talk said it best:

“…the Twins have added to their amazing collection of banjo-hitting utility infielders by calling up Matt Tolbert from Triple-A. Tolbert is anything but deserving after hitting .232 with a .632 OPS and six errors in 27 games at Triple-A, but he’s a poor man’s Nick Punto and so naturally Ron Gardenhire loves him.”

The move is nothing if not disconcerting.

As Gleeman mentions, the club is already stock-piled with prototypical “small ball” style players in Nick Punto, Brendan Harris, and Alexi Casilla.

The club could have used this opportunity to call up the supposed third baseman of the future, Danny Valencia or bring Luke Hughes back for a second go-around with the big club, but neither is doing anything overly inspiring at Rochester.

Additionally, Valencia and Hughes are both third basemen by trade, although Hughes has spent plenty of time at second base as of late, but neither of those positions appear to be open with the big club.

The Twins appear content to leave Nick Punto at third base—his best defensive position, according to UZR —and Orlando Hudson isn’t going to suit up anywhere but second base.

That leaves current Rochester shortstop Trevor Plouffe as the most logical player to call up in this situation.

Plouffe, 24, is off to a solid start with the Red Wings, hitting .278/.344/.452 with two home runs, 13 RBI, and eight doubles through 29 games.

The Twins however, appear to be playing favorites and going with one of manager Ron Gardenhire’s favorites, the “scrappy” Matt Tolbert.

Tolbert will likely split time with Alexi Casilla who isn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with his paltry .261/.292/.304 batting line.

To their credit, UZR rates both Casilla and Tolbert as above average defenders at shortstop, albeit in very small sample sizes.

The Casilla/Tolbert combo isn’t an ideal solution for the Twins, especially with the division rival Chicago White Sox in town and a weekend series with the world champion New York Yankees looming on the horizon, but the duo should serve as an adequate defensive stopgap until Hardy returns next week.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

Copyright © 1996-2010 Kuzul. All rights reserved.
iDream theme by Templates Next | Powered by WordPress