Could the Orioles have turned J.J. Hardy into Colby Rasmus?

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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.

2017 Preview: The American League Central

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the American League Central

Do the Indians have a weakness? Do the Tigers and Royals have one more playoff push in them or do they have to start contemplating rebuilds? The White Sox and Twins are rebuilding, but do either of them have a chance to be remotely competitive?

As we sit here in March, the answers are “not really,” “possibly,” and “not a chance.” There are no games that count this March, however, so they’re just guesses. But educated ones! Here are the links to our guesses and our education for all of the clubs of the AL Central:

Cleveland Indians
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals
Chicago White Sox
Minnesota Twins

2017 Preview: The National League East

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For the past few weeks we’ve been previewing the 2017 season. Here, in handy one-stop-shopping form, is our package of previews from the National League East

The Washington Nationals crave a playoff run that doesn’t end at the division series. The Mets crave a season in which they don’t have a press conference about an injured pitcher. The Marlins are trying to put the nightmare of the end of the 2016 behind them. The Phillies and Braves are hoping to move on from the “lose tons of games” phase of their rebuilds and move on to the “hey, these kids can play!” phase.

There is a ton of star power in the NL East — Harper, Scherzer, Cespedes, Syndergaard, Stanton, Freeman — some great young talent on ever roster and, in Ichiro and Bartolo, the two oldest players in the game. Maybe the division can’t lay claim to the best team in baseball, but there will certainly be some interesting baseball in the division.

Here’s how each team breaks down:

Washington Nationals
New York Mets
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves