Orioles get J. J. Hardy, Brendan Harris from Twins for two minor league relievers

December 09, 2010|By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — — Looking to upgrade offensively at the shortstop position without adversely affecting team defense, the Orioles traded two minor league relievers to the Minnesota Twins for shortstop J.J. Hardy and utility infielder Brendan Harris.

The deal had essentially been finalized Wednesday, but the clubs waited to announce the deal because the commissioner's office had to approve an exchange of money – the Twins gave up $500,000 and Hardy and Harris for minor-league pitchers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson.

Hardy, 28, will be paired with 27-year-old third baseman Mark Reynolds, who was acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday, to make up a new left side of the infield for the Orioles.

"I'm excited about it," Hardy said in a conference call with reporters. "I've been through this whole getting ready to be traded the last three offseasons. I'm pretty excited that the Orioles want me. … I think it will be a good challenge. Just looking at the roster of the Baltimore Orioles, I think we're going to be pretty good. Looking at what they did in the second half last year, I think we're going to be a team that might fly under the radar and be a lot better than people expect."

Hardy was once considered one of the best young shortstops in baseball, a former second-rounder of the Milwaukee Brewers who hit 50 homers in a two-season span in 2007-08. But he's been limited physically in each of the past two seasons, playing just 101 games in 2010 due to a left wrist injury.

In his lone season with the Twins, Hardy batted .268 with a .320 on-base percentage and six homers. He is in his final offseason of arbitration — he made $5.1 million last season — and can become a free agent after 2011.

"There's no question in my mind that's what I'm capable of," said Hardy of the 2008 season when he batted .283 and tallied 24 homers and 74 RBIs in 146 games for the Milwaukee Brewers. "I definitely believe that's the player I am and I'm definitely capable of it. I'm kind of looking forward to having a year like that this year."

Even with the offensive struggles, he is widely considered a plus-defensive shortstop with a great arm.

"We like his defense," said Orioles president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail. "If you look at those (zone rating statistics), he's very top of the chart. We think he will provide us with more offense and he's a good defender."

MacPhail said he would consider talking about a contract extension with Hardy this spring.

"We'll see," MacPhail said. "I think my inclination is to … focus now on the 2011 club and address some of those other things, extensions or whatever, maybe in spring training."

Harris, 30, hit .157 with one homer and four RBIs in 43 games with the Twins in 2010. He is a career .260 hitter in parts of seven seasons. A former 2001 draft pick of the Chicago Cubs, he has played third base, second base, shortstop and first base in the major leagues.

He likely will continue that utility role with the Orioles. He is owed $1.75 million in 2011, the final season of a two-year extension with the Twins.

"I talked to [Twins GM] Billy Smith and … I think we just kind of came to an agreement that a change of scenery would be beneficial," Harris said. "I'm real optimistic and looking forward to coming to Baltimore. I live in Arlington in Virginia, so I kind of live right down the road. I went to school kind of right down the road at William & Mary. There are a lot of good things and new opportunities."

Acquiring Hardy and Harris likely shuts the door on re-signing Cesar Izturis, who was the Orioles starting shortstop each of the past two seasons. However, MacPhail said he has not completely nixed the idea of re-signing the 30-year-old Izturis, who batted .230 with a .277 on-base percentage in 2010.

Hoey, a 27-year-old right-hander, had a combined 6-0 record with a 3.25 ERA in 42 outings between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk. He made 35 appearances for the Orioles during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, going 3-5 with an 8.13 ERA. He missed all of 2008 with a right shoulder injury. The Orioles drafted him in the 13th round of 2003. He was put back on the 40-man roster earlier this offseason.

Jacobson, 24, went 8-1 with a 2.79 ERA in 34 relief appearances for Single-A Frederick. He was dealt to the Orioles in August 2009 in the trade that sent Aubrey Huff to the Detroit Tigers.

The Orioles nearly had another starting shortstop earlier this week at the winter meetings. They had a deal in place to send outfielder Nolan Reimold and reliever Alfredo Simon to the Tampa Bay Rays for Jason Bartlett, but the Orioles decided to pull Reimold off the table – which made Hardy the more attractive target, given what it took to acquire him.

The club was hesitant in giving up two more young relievers – they sent David Hernandez and Kam Mickolio to Arizona for Reynolds – but MacPhail feels it is an area where they have depth. They also expect to sign at least one, and maybe two, veteran relievers. They also took a 21-year-old reliever, Adrian Rosario, from the Brewers organization in Thursday's Rule 5 draft.

"It's the one thing we seem to have an abundance of," MacPhail said of young relievers. "There are more guys that we thought were potentially in the mix. … That's the currency we seem to have the most supply of."

dan.connolly@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this artcle.

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