Hardy, Wieters still Orioles for now--and maybe later

Hardy, Wieters still Orioles for now--and maybe later
November 14, 2013, 9:00 am
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Wednesday was a head spinning day. As soon as I’d digest one rumor from the General Managers Meetings in Orlando, there’d be another one.

Before I finished contemplating the ramifications of the proposed deal, which was supposedly quickly rejected, of J.J. Hardy to the St. Louis Cardinals for Shelby Miller, Matt Wieters was supposedly being shopped.

And oh yes, Chris Davis, who’s also being represented by Scott Boras, only has two years left before he becomes a free agent, too. And, you know Boras likes his clients to test the market.

There was also a Mark Trumbo to the Orioles report as well as the team checking on Ike Davis. Davis is a left-handed hitting first baseman who slumped from 32 home runs in 2012 to nine last year. Don’t the Orioles already have a left-handed hitting first baseman who hits for power?

And, there were probably some names linked with the Orioles that I’m forgetting or weren’t reported.

Usually, the GM meetings are relatively low-key. Now, I’m wishing I attended just to have heard Boras lecture MLB about franchise relocation. New Jersey, Boras thinks would be a better home for the Tampa Bay Rays than Tropicana Field.

Never mind that the Yankees and Mets wouldn’t allow a third team in the metropolitan area, Boras doesn’t have enough to worry about with getting megadeals for his clients.

Of course, the Orioles will listen to offers for Hardy, who has one year left on his contract and Wieters, who has two. But, they’re a good team with them and a better one if the starting pitching is improved next year with perhaps another strong hitter.

The team’s defense is arguably the best in its 60-year history. Hardy is one of a long line of terrific shortstops that the Orioles have been blessed with, and Wieters is probably the best catcher the franchise has ever had.

Fans focus more on offensive performances except when they’re marveling at Manny Machado’s great plays or worrying that Adam Jones is concentrating on blowing bubbles instead of catching fly balls.

Many think that Wieters’ offensive performance, which has been somewhat of a disappointment is a reason for the Orioles to shop him. Or that he’s to blame for the starters’ inconsistencies.

He can be somewhat intimidating to a young starter. One pitcher said he so rarely shakes Wieters off that he can count on the fingers of one hand the number or times he’s done so.

Wieters is a master at the “game within the game,” things that fans aren’t privy to. He arrives hours before game time, watches hours of tape of opposing batters and works to establish a rapport with the pitchers.

He’s been a key reason for the development of Chris Tillman, with whom he’s worked his entire professional career. It’s not his fault that pitchers’ ERAs are high. Without him, they’d be higher.

With new pitching coach Dave Wallace, who’s made lemonade out of lemons with staffs seemingly much less talented than the Orioles, the starters should be better. Perhaps Kevin Gausman is ready to bloom. Maybe he’ll even start the season in the Orioles rotation, particularly if Scott Feldman isn’t re-signed or another starter isn’t added.

A year ago, there was a huge trade during the GM meetings. Wil Myers was traded from Kansas City to Tampa Bay for James Shields. Other top prospects were included. There were reports that the Royals offered Myers for Dylan Bundy, but the Orioles didn’t act quickly enough.

This time, Dan Duquette is dealing from a position of relative strength. He has a good team, one that’s not quite at a championship level, but perhaps not far off. Two years ago, there were the rumors that the Orioles were shopping Adam Jones.

Nothing happened, and when the team got off to a hot start in 2012, a long-term deal was quickly consummated. The Orioles would like similar deals with Wieters and Davis. They may not happen. Hardy should be easier to re-sign.

But, don’t get carried away. There are still nearly three months until spring training begins. Countless rumors will be reported and repeated here. Few of them come to fruition.

The Orioles have some needs, but many more strengths. In Baltimore, there are just two major league teams, and on the six days the Ravens don’t play, there’s plenty of time to analyze what the Orioles need.

In the end Duquette may be offered a deal so attractive that he feels compelled to deal Hardy or Wieters. The betting here is that deal isn’t out there, and both will be a vital part of the Orioles in 2014, but maybe not beyond.