The Orioles would have had far-and-away the best shortstop available in trade talks this month if they didn’t sign J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $22.5 million extension two weeks ago. The 28-year-old Hardy has had a terrific season in his first year in Baltimore, hitting .275/.325/.510 with 18 homers in 298 at-bats.
And extending Hardy was a defensible decision. The Orioles have a top shortstop prospect in 2010 first-round pick Manny Machado, but he’s probably two years away from the majors. Hardy was a better choice to bridge that gap than anyone who would have been available in free agency this winter, and he signed for a reasonable $7.5 million per year.
Still, I can’t help but think that Colby Rasmus would look awfully good in left field for Baltimore, and it’s quite possible that the Cardinals might have been willing to part with him for J.J. Hardy and Jeremy Guthrie. While Guthrie isn’t quite as good of a bet as Edwin Jackson, he does have a 4.18 ERA in the AL East this season. Hardy would have a great fit at shortstop for the Cards, and he has 250 points of OPS on Rafael Furcal this year.
But the Orioles passed up the chance to cash in Hardy. In their defense, that hole at shortstop is hard to fill and they now have a pretty good option there, if one who is a bit injury-prone, through 2014. I just think that when a team in Baltimore’s position has a chance to rope in a player with star potential, it has to do whatever it takes.
Starter Jeremy Hellickson has become the Phillies’ most enticing trade chip as he’s put together a solid month of July. After shutting out the Marlins on one hit and one walk over six innings on Monday, the right-hander lowered his July ERA to 1.97 and his overall ERA to 3.65. As a result, the Phillies are telling teams they want a top-five prospect to part with Hellickson, per ESPN’s Jayson Stark.
Obviously, a top-five prospect means something different if you’re the Marlins as opposed to the Rangers. And the Phillies’ price point for Hellickson isn’t likely to stay that high, but GM Matt Klentak is setting a lofty starting point so that the return might end up being higher than market value.
ESPN’s Buster Olney speculates that the Phillies could end up holding onto Hellickson and giving him a qualifying offer after the season. He notes that the Phillies have only $25 million tied up for the 2017 season, so they could afford to pay Hellickson in excess of $16 million if he were to accept.
Madison Bumgarner isn’t the only Giants pitcher who can rake. Matt Cain crushed a three-run home run during Tuesday’s game against the Giants.
Cain stepped to the plate with runners on the corner and one out against Reds starter Cody Reed in the bottom of the second inning. Reed threw a 1-1 fastball down the middle and Cain hit it about 20 rows back in the left field seats.
It’s Cain’s first homer of the season, his first since 2012, and the seventh of his 12-year career. He still has some work to catch up to Bumgarner, who has two homers this year and 13 in his career.
On the pitching side of things, Cain got the win against the Reds on Tuesday night, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. He currently holds an ugly 5.95 ERA.