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.

Will Middlebrooks carted off field with injury

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Phillies third baseman Will Middlebrooks suffered a serious injury during Saturday’s Grapefruit League contest against the Orioles. The infielder was chasing down a pop fly in the eighth inning when he ran into left fielder Andrew Pullin, who inadvertently trapped Middlebrooks’ ankle under his leg. Middlebrooks was unable to put weight on his leg following the collision and was carted off the field and taken to a local hospital for X-rays.

Per MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki, not much is known yet about the severity of the ankle injury or the recovery time it will require, though it appears serious enough to set Middlebrooks back considerably as he seeks a backup/bench role with the team this spring.

The 29-year-old is currently seeking another opportunity to extend his six-year major-league career in 2018. He’s coming off of two down years with the Brewers and Rangers, during which he slashed a cumulative .169/.229/.262 with four extra bases through 70 plate appearances.