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January 14, 2013

Rumor Roundup

Monday, January 14

by Daniel Rathman

A quiet weekend brought virtually no signings and only a few scattered nuggets. Without further ado, here are those nuggets…

Despite rumors last week, J.J. Hardy seems certain to stay in Baltimore
We’ve already seen one (essentially) three-way trade this offseason, and six days ago, Roch Kubatko, the Orioles beat writer for MASN, reported that another such deal might be in the hopper. At the time, the Cubs were discussing ways to obtain right-hander Rick Porcello from the Tigers, and one possibility entailed bringing the Orioles into the equation, with Hardy likely heading to Detroit. Kubatko mentioned that a glaring flaw in this scenario was the Orioles’ own interest in Porcello, who could provide insurance for the back end of Baltimore’s rotation. And in case there was any lingering optimism that the three-team deal might be consummated, on Sunday, manager Buck Showalter emptied the glass.

Kubatko asked Showalter what sort of return it would take to pry the 30-year-old Hardy away, and the veteran skipper, who is entering his third full season at Camden Yards, shot back, “What word is above ‘overwhelmed’?” Floored? Dumbfounded? Flabbergasted? Take your pick—and even with shortstops coming at a premium, don’t expect any team to shoot high enough to woo general manager Dan Duquette into pulling the trigger.

Hardy took a severe step backward at the plate in 2012, hitting just .238/.282/.389 (.234 TAv), but his 22 home runs did rank third among shortstops, and he is the only shortstop in the league to clear that total in each of the past two years. Hardy’s value comes primarily on defense, where he logged a career-best 19.6 FRAA last season, following up an 8.1 FRAA effort in 2011. That power-glove combination has helped Hardy to produce a combined 6.4 WARP in his first two years with the Orioles, even though his aggregate on-base percentage for the term is below .300.

Acquired from the Twins two Decembers ago in a lopsided barter for minor-league pitchers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson, Hardy settled for $5.85 million in 2011, and then inked a three-year, $22.25 million extension, which he easily outperformed in 2012. Barring further offensive regression or a sudden decline in his fielding skills, Hardy figures to outperform his $7 million paychecks in 2013 and 2014, too—and that projection explains why Duquette and Showalter are disinclined to move him.

Assuming that Hardy stays in Baltimore, 20-year-old Manny Machado—who showed impressive thump but a predictably immature approach in his debut—will almost certainly spend at least the first two full years of his major-league career at the hot corner. The tandem of Hardy and Machado, who complements his shortstop range with a plus arm, gives the Orioles an excellent left side of the infield, a setup that fits well with their ground-ball-oriented pitchers. Baltimore ranked 14th in the league with a .236 BABIP allowed on grounders last year, but with Machado set for his first full season in The Show, the O’s could improve on that effort in 2013.

Dan O’Dowd hunting for low-cost rotation depth
Speaking of ground balls, the Rockies view them as a way to dodge the wrath of Coors Field, and their front office is scouring the bargain bin for pitchers who fit that profile. According to Denver Post beat writer Troy Renck, O’Dowd’s search has thus far turned up Aaron Cook, Derek Lowe, Chris Volstad, and Jeff Karstens, who (if signed) would compete to join a rotation that features Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa, and Jeff Francis. Renck believes that the Rockies will try to limit their signings to minor-league pacts, facilitating competition by avoiding guaranteed salaries and placing prospects and veterans on even footing. 

About three weeks ago, Lowe told Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe that he has fielded calls from multiple teams, but is waiting for one of them to offer a legitimate chance to earn a rotation spot, rather than a swingman role. If he’s willing to battle myriad young pitchers with similarly unimpressive 2012 credentials, then the Rockies could become a viable destination.

Volstad, who came to the Cubs in the Carlos Zambrano trade with the Marlins last January, was claimed by the Royals in October, but spent less than a month with his third organization before being designated for assignment and electing free agency. He took home nearly $2.7 million in a deal to forgo his first year of arbitration, but won’t see anywhere near that salary in 2013 after a second consecutive below-replacement-level campaign. The Rockies are one of the few teams that might be willing to gamble on his ground-ball tendencies, and thus might be a logical landing spot.

Mets attended Brian Wilson’s private workout on Saturday
Finally, last Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Hank Schulman reported that Wilson was ramping up his rehabilitation and preparing to throw off of a mound for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery last April. Well, over the weekend, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson saw Wilson go through a “private workout” held at UCLA, and USA Today’s Bob Nightengale hears that the Mets are among the teams with “strong interest” in the former Giants closer.

The Mets don’t have a desperate need for Wilson—with Frank Francisco and Bobby Parnell representing in-house options for the ninth inning and only infinitesimal odds of contending in 2012—but they could invest in the 30-year-old’s recovery, with a goal of either flipping him at the trade deadline or, much less likely, extending a qualifying offer next winter. CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweeted on Jan. 6 that the Mets “have quite a bit of money left to spend,” and though Alderson has plenty of other needs to address, fortifying the bullpen with a low-risk, one-year pact with Wilson could prove prudent if a strong market for relief help develops in July.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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