This is an ongoing series as we enter the peak of the trade season, looking at the various internal options that each team may turn to should they trade a given core player. We've already covered possible replacements for Jose Reyes and Ryan Ludwick- more names will come over the next couple weeks.
The Orioles appear to be on the fence about whether to extend their shortstop or trade him given that he's due to become a free agent at the end of the season, but realistically a trade makes far more sense. The size of Hardy's next contract, which should be fairly large given his play this season, isn't the only problem that surrounds his long-term status with the team- there should be legitimate questions in Baltimore about the 28-year-old's ability to stay healthy throughout the season. He hasn't played a full season at shortstop since 2008, and one could even argue that his offensive performance has been even more volatile than his ability to get onto the field.
So, who would Baltimore look to should they make the right decision, and look to trade J.J. Hardy?
- Robert Andino: The 27-year-old is probably the most likely option, as he's been the primary replacement for Hardy thus far this season. Unfortunately, Andino is likely to be stretched if he's expected to play everyday. A solid defender, most of the shortstop's issues stem from an inability to hit. Andino doesn't have much pop or take many walks, and nobody would describe his contact skills as outstanding. Frankly, he's an underwhelming option and the kind of guy that probably won't last past 2011.
- Cesar Izturis: Part of the equation here involves the veteran's health, as he's currently on the mend from elbow surgery. But assuming that he can come back in shape, and reports have him returning sometime near the end of the month, he'll likely be Andino's strongest competition for playing time. Regarded as a top-notch defender, which explains his knack for finding MLB gigs despite a completely punchless bat, the obvious concern here is that the injuries combined with aging will prevent him from continuing to be an upper-echelon defensive shortstop. Otherwise, he's the kind of stopgap that you'll often see in these kinds of situations: a steady, high-quality defender that brings little to nothing with the bat.
- Nick Green: Yep, he just might be making a comeback. Most of you will probably remember Green from his time as Boston's shortstop back in 2009, but right now he's currently the shortstop for Triple-A Norfolk. He's an unlikely option at this point, though, given that he's hitting below .200 in nearly 300 PA's for Norfolk so far this season.
- Pedro Florimon: Already on the club's 40-man roster, Florimon is a fringe prospect that once held the title as Baltimore's best young shortstop. But now he's 25, and his career has totally stalled out at Double-A, where he's currently the regular shortstop for the Bowie Baysox. He offers some tools but lacks polish as a defender, and it's hard to envision him ever hitting MLB pitching at this point. But if the Orioles get stretched thin at the position and don't want to go through too much roster manipulation, a Florimon call-up is a possibility.