Orioles acquire shortstop J.J. Hardy from Twins

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UPDATE: The deal is now official. Hardy, Brendan Harris, and $500,000 in cash for Hoey and Jacobson.

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The Orioles are trade-happy.

Not satisfied with acquiring Mark Reynolds from the Diamondbacks on Monday, they are now a couple of routine physicals away from landing shortstop J.J. Hardy and utility infielder Brendan Harris from the Twins.

This all comes via Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun, who suspects that pitchers Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey will be shipped to Minnesota in return.

Jacobson, 24, posted a 2.79 ERA and 1.28 WHIP over 71 innings this year at high Single-A Fredrick.  He’s a promising 6-foot-6 righty, and could be throwing middle relief innings for the big league Twins in a season-and-a-half.  Hoey, a 27-year-old right-hander, had 32 strikeouts in 21.1 innings this year at Triple-A.  He has a bit of experience in the majors and may be ready for another look.

That’s not a package that is going to make a dent in the Orioles’ farm system.  Jacobson and Hoey might become nice relievers, but Baltimore did well here.

It wasn’t long ago that Hardy was a highly productive shortstop.  He had down years in 2009 and 2010, but he slugged 24 homers in 2008 and he doesn’t turn 29 years old until next August.  Maybe things will be better for him in Baltimore.

Harris is a throw-in.  He’s 30 years old and had a 446 OPS across 108 at-bats this year.  Minnesota was his seventh organization — if the trade goes through as it’s being reported Baltimore will be his eighth.

The Twins were looking to trade Hardy this winter in order to avoid the nearly $7 million that he stands to earn next season via salary arbitration.  They still need to pay Japanese infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka and have been considering retaining free agent starter Carl Pavano.  If Hardy’s salary is moved to the Orioles’ pockets, it’s game on with Pavano.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.