Should the Orioles consider J.J. Hardy as a trade chip?

It is interesting that some of you have suggested here that the Orioles consider making shortstop J.J. Hardy available in a trade this winter.

I assume part of the thinking is that with just a year left on his contract you would like to see the team get something in return - like quality pitching - before he could leave via free agency at the end of the 2014 season, barring a new contract. There also could be a thought from some that signing him to a new, long-term deal is not the best move. Also, could Hardy potentially bring a nice return in a deal?

All of those points make some sense and I understand the thought process, but I just don't agree with it.

Even if the O's got pitching in return that could help them win in 2014, a potential Hardy trade likely re-arranges the best defensive left side of the infield in the majors. Does Manny Machado move to short under that scenario, and if so, who then plays third base? Does a move to short for Machado coming off knee surgery even make any sense? What if Machado is not ready by opening day?

Beyond all that, I place a high value on what Hardy will mean to the 2014 Orioles, even if that does turn out to be his last Orioles season, which I don't believe will be the case.

But even if it does turn out to be, Hardy's importance goes way beyond anything we can statistically quantify on offense or defense. He is the leader of the defense in the infield. He has been huge for Machado's development and a big part of Machado's seemless move to the third base position in the majors that began in August of 2012. Playing next to Hardy is good for Machado and will continue to be.

While Hardy is one of the less publicly vocal O's players, don't let that fool you into thinking he is not a leader in the clubhouse and a player others look to daily. He is not flashy but his day-to-day impact on this team would be greatly missed. Players like Hardy, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis bring that lunchpail mentality to the Orioles that a young guy like Machado got to see and learn from. That sets the right tone for the rest of the team.

Hardy is one of those players whose amazingly steady and consistent daily defense is not often truly appreciated until it's gone.

Should the O's even entertain offers for Hardy? Of course they should, listening to such is their job and they need to do that. There even could be an offer that overwhelms them and makes them consider a trade.

But I don't expect to see that.

I realize I stray toward the conservative sometimes here and I'm the guy that just wrote a few weeks ago that the O's should now be looking to sign and not trade catcher Matt Wieters.

Hardy is also part of that up-the-middle core that provides stability for the Orioles in premium positions on the diamond.

Trade talks for Hardy? Well, it's OK to at least listen.

Boulanger quotes: The Orioles announced yesterday that Jeff Manto has been hired as the minor league hitting coordinator, replacing Mike Boulanger who had the job the last two seasons.

Boulanger, who came to the Orioles from the Texas organization, said he had planned to retire from baseball but decided to accept an O's offer instead to do some scouting during the 2014 season.

"During instructional league I told (Orioles director of player development) Brian Graham I wanted to retire at the end of my contract," Boulanger said. "I turned 64 in August and thought it was about time to get a younger guy in there.

"I felt I'd done what I was asked to do for the two years. I was there to lay the foundation and structure for a good hitting program.

"I was planning to retire but Dan (Duquette) asked me to do something for the organization but wasn't sure exactly what. I had retired in my mind but(O's scouting director)Gary Rajsich called me and asked if I'd be interesting in scouting. He gave me the chance to work in the area around my house so I could spend more time at home. It was basically a retirement and then this opportunity came around and I took it."

Boulanger makes Broken Arrow, OK. his home and will have some amateur scouting assignments in Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas and also pick up some pro assignments for the Orioles during next season.

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