The elephant in the room
Then there is the obvious point of putting Manny Machado at shortstop. Manny came through the minor leagues as a shortstop. He has played it in Hardy’s absence. He does a great job at the position.
However, then the problem is, who plays third base?
Add in the fact that Machado has been scuffling in 2017, and it makes sense to let him at third base. Plus, he is the best third baseman in the American League defensively, and a top five player in baseball (arguably).
If you do put him at short, who plays third? I would recommend Chris Davis or Trey Mancini.
Look, I’m not sure Mancini could play third. And Davis wasn’t as good at third as he obviously is at first base.
Pedro Alvarez was a liability at third base, which is why he only played one game there for the Baltimore Orioles in 2016 and they realized that wasn’t an option. Drew Dosch, the Tides’ third baseman, is likely not a major leaguer. Rosa has played a lot of third base for Bowie.
However, in today’s major leagues, you need a third baseman who can hit. Davis and Mancini fill that role. As does Manny. If you look at shortstop, you can get away with less offense there, especially less power. Think of guys like Jose Reyes, Xander Bogaerts, Zack Cosart, Jimmy Rollins, Andrelton Simmons, Starlin Castro. For their career, none of this sampling of shortstops of various types is big power hitters.
I would keep Machado at third base unless moving him to short keeps him in Baltimore.
As for Hardy, I’m not sure. He isn’t going to get much better. Sure, he might get the average up to about .220, but I wouldn’t expect much more. The arm strength is not going to rebound.
If there is a health issue, I would immediately DL Hardy. Let him recover.
Releasing him would be a monumental mistake by management, a terrible message to send to the team.
Could you bench him? Sure. But, if that is the case, then you can’t carry Flaherty and whoever his replacement is, whether that is Andino, Janish or someone else. It would leave you with a backup shortstop, and whoever is starting at short would have to be able to play second and third.
For that reason, if I were the one making a move, I would likely keep Hardy in the lineup. However, if I were to replace him, it would be with Robert Andino.