J.J. Hardy Rumors

J.J. Hardy Playing Through Torn Labrum In Left Shoulder

J.J. Hardy has suffered through the worst season of his career at the plate, and Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun reveals the probable reason for those struggles. Hardy said today that he has a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder that has hindered him at the plate all season.

Hardy opened the year on the disabled list due to what the team termed a left shoulder sprain, but Hardy has known all along that there’s actually a tear in the shoulder’s labrum. Asked about the possibility of offseason surgery to repair the issue, however, Hardy somewhat surprisingly said he will not correct the injury surgically. Rather, his plan is to rest the shoulder and then strengthen it. As Hardy explained, he’s gone through the process to repair a labral tear in his shoulder once previously (as a minor leaguer in 2004) and he doesn’t wish to repeat that difficult recovery process.

A renowned defensive shortstop, Hardy has, by all accounts, put together another sterling defensive campaign. As Encina notes, he’s made only three errors this season, and defensive metrics such as UZR/150 (+12.6 runs) and Defensive Runs Saved (+6) again praise Hardy’s glovework as considerably above average.

It’s the results at the plate that are a concern for Hardy and the Orioles, as the 33-year-old delivered just a .213/.246/.306 batting line and eight homers in the first season of a three-year, $40MM contract extension signed about one year ago. Per Encina, Hardy added that if the issue lingers into 2016, it’ll impact how long he envisions himself playing. He also missed time with a groin strain and a minor oblique issue this season and has dealt with a lengthy list of injuries over the course of his career.

Hardy’s struggles were just one of many factors in a disappointing season for the Orioles. The team’s rotation didn’t perform anywhere near expectation, and the club was left reeling from the losses of outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis, as replacement options offered little in terms of offensive output. Matt Wieters spent a significant portion of the season on the DL and didn’t hit well upon activation, and Steve Pearce was unable to replicate his 2014 breakout. Wieters and Pearce will be joined by key contributors Chris Davis, Wei-Yin Chen and Darren O’Day in free agency, further clouding the future outlook for Baltimore.

Orioles Designate Nolan Reimold For Assignment

In a series of roster moves, the Orioles announced that they’ve designated outfielder Nolan Reimold for assignment and reinstated infielder/outfielder Steve Pearce from the disabled list. Though getting Pearce back deepens the club, the Orioles took another injury hit in his place, as the team announced that J.J. Hardy has landed on the DL with a groin strain. Right-hander Jorge Rondon has been recalled in his place to give the O’s some extra bullpen depth.

Reimold has spent most of his career either alternating frequently between Triple-A and the Majors or between the active roster and the disabled list. Although he has more than five years of big league service under his belt, Reimold has played in just 354 games at the Major League level. He’s shown on multiple stints in the past that he has the raw talent to be a productive big leaguer, but he’s now 31 years old with a history of neck problems as well as spinal fusion surgery under his belt.

Reimold batted .227/.306/.340 in 108 plate appearances this year and has .214/.276/.361 in 326 PAs dating back to 2013. He’s spent nearly all of his career with the Orioles, although he did briefly appear with the Blue Jays and Diamondbacks in 2014 before returning to Baltimore on a minor league deal this winter.

Injury Notes: Sabathia, Hardy, Wright

An update some some notable players who will be joining or leaving the disabled list…

  • C.C. Sabathia lasted just 2 2/3 innings in today’s start before leaving due to pain in his right knee.  The veteran lefty will at least be shut down for a while, though Yankees GM Brian Cashman told reporters (including MLB.com’s Grace Raynor) that he presumed Sabathia will need a DL stint “just because he walked off the field without even throwing another pitch.”  Sabathia underwent surgery on that same knee in 2014 and has been bothered by pain for much of this season, which could partially explain his rough 5.24 ERA over 135 2/3 innings.  The Yankees had planned to expand to a six-man rotation upon Michael Pineda‘s impending return from the DL, though those plans are on hold with Sabathia sidelined.
  • The Orioles announced that shortstop J.J. Hardy has been placed on the 15-day DL with a left groin injury, and he’ll undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury.  Hardy, who also missed all of April with a strained shoulder, has hit only .220/.251/.313 in 353 plate appearances this season, his first under a three-year, $40MM extension signed last October.  Ryan Flaherty will likely handle shortstop duties while Hardy is out, though the O’s also have Paul Janish at Triple-A.
  • The Mets plan to activate David Wright from the disabled list prior to Monday’s game against the Phillies.  Southpaw Dario Alvarez has been optioned to Triple-A to make room for Wright on the active roster, ESPN’s Adam Rubin reports.  Wright was originally placed on the DL in April with a strained hamstring but he was discovered to have the much more serious condition known as spinal stenosis.

AL East Notes: Orioles, Matsui, Drew, Red Sox

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy spoke with MASNsports.com’s Roch Kubatko about the extension he signed last October, explaining that he told agent Mike Seal he enjoyed Baltimore and wanted to remain there due to the club’s winning ways. Wondering where he was going to play the 2015 season did weigh on him throughout the season, Hardy said, and he was happy to agree to terms on a deal to keep him with the O’s. However, Hardy also discussed the departure of Nick Markakis, noting that the move didn’t necessarily sit well with him or franchise cornerstone Adam Jones“Adam and I have both thought about that,” Hardy told Kubatko. “I know Adam thinks about it a lot. I mean, losing Nick was big. He was one of the guys out there every single day with us. Obviously, we want to win and the reason we signed our extensions is because we like it here and we like the guys who were around, so if everyone starts leaving, I don’t know.” Hardy said he hasn’t voiced any concerns to executive vice president/general manager Dan Duquette or manager Buck Showalter and that, when signing, he trusted that the Orioles would do everything possible to keep their players. Hardy also discussed teammates Matt Wieters and Chris Davis, pointing out that each has Scott Boras as an agent. “[Boras] kind of does a lot more decision-making,” Hardy said, adding that he hopes to see both Wieters and Davis stay in Baltimore.

More from the AL East…

  • The Yankees announced that Hideki Matsui has been hired as a special adviser to GM Brian Cashman. Per ESPNNewYork.com’s Andrew Marchand, Matsui will work closely with Cashman and vice president of player development Gary Denbo, and he’ll spend much of the 2015 season visiting minor league affiliates to work with their managers, coaches and players, focusing on aspects of hitting.
  • Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News spoke to Cashman about why the Yankees re-signed Stephen Drew. The GM explained that the team believes Drew’s rapid offensive deterioration in 2014 to be an aberration, and there’s little concern about the defensive en of the equation despite a change of positions. Andrew Miller, newly signed with the Yankees but a teammate of Drew’s last year in Boston, also weighed in with Feinsand, stating that he doesn’t envy the situation Drew entered in 2014. “Missing spring training and trying to come in with that weight on your shoulders, for it to be such a big story, have a team act so excited to see him, it was a little unfair to him,” Miller explained. “I can’t imagine missing that time and then trying to go to game speed.” Drew himself adds that the missed time hurt him quite a bit, and he’s pleased to be getting reps on schedule this year with the rest of the league.
  • The Phillies scouted both the Yankees and Red Sox today, via Jon Morosi of FOX Sports and Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe (Twitter links). Of course, having a senior scout in attendance doesn’t necessarily indicate that anything eventful is on the horizon in terms of trade activity, as scouts are frequently watching multiple teams over the course of Spring Training. Still, Abraham notes that the Phils have taken quite a few looks at Boston third base prospect Garin Cecchini.

East Notes: Hart, Hardy, Belisario

John Hart had to be persuaded to take over the Braves GM job, but team president John Schuerholz is excited about the work Hart and likely successor John Coppolella have done so far, Tyler Kepner of the New York Times writes. “The combination of John Hart and John Coppolella has been dynamic, absolutely dynamic,” says Schuerholz. “The work those two have done, in tandem, has been sensational.” This offseason, Hart and Coppolella have traded Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis in an attempt to add young talent. The timing was right for the Braves to re-tool, Hart says. “The Nationals are in their perfect window right now. The Marlins are getting better. If you’re going to take, if you will, sort of a regroup year, this would be a good one.

  • When J.J. Hardy traded power to remain in the everyday lineup last season, he may have hurt his earning potential. Hardy is unsure if he would have re-signed with the Orioles had he not dealt with a painful back injury last season, writes Peter Schmuck of the Baltimore Sun. Baltimore inked Hardy to a three-year, $40MM extension during the playoffs last year. Hardy was aware of the trials suffered by Stephen Drew and former teammate Nelson Cruz in the previous offseason. Qualifying offers to both players left clubs wary about signing them. Hardy opted to forgo the experience entirely, although he also says he’s happy in Baltimore.
  • Rays non-roster invitee Ronald Belisario injured himself climbing out of a pool earlier in the winter, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times. The reliever fractured his non-throwing shoulder prior to signing with the Rays a month ago. He didn’t have the injury checked out until he reported to camp. Belisario is on a split contract that would pay $1.5MM if he makes the team. Since he won’t be on the field for at least two weeks, his chances of breaking camp with the team look small. This injury probably explains why his deal with the Blue Jays fell through.

AL East Notes: Hardy, Blue Jays, Edwards, BoSox

J.J. Hardy made an early exit from the free agent market when he re-signed with the Orioles before the ALCS, but the shortstop would’ve preferred to have inked his new contract even sooner.  “It kind of went a lot longer than I wanted it to,” Hardy told Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com. “I didn’t think it needed to go that long, but it did. But I told my agent, ‘Listen, this is what I want and I like it in Baltimore. Let’s get to what is fair and make this happen.’ Now that it is done, I’m glad everything worked out as it did.”  Hardy also said he was hampered by a bad back last season, and hopes to deliver more of his customary power now that he’s feeling healthier.  Here’s some more from around the AL East…

  • Canadian-born Russell Martin, Dalton Pompey and Michael Saunders are slated to play major roles for the Blue Jays, though team president Paul Beeston and Alex Anthopoulos tell Robert MacLeod of the Globe & Mail that this increase in Canadian talent is a coincidence in roster-building, not a promotional gimmick. “The city and the fans and the country embrace great players because great players help you win. And I think winning is what promotes the sport and baseball in Canada,” Anthopoulos said.
  • Rays minor leaguer Spencer Edwards has been issued an 80-game suspension for a PED violation, the league announced.  Edwards was Tampa’s second-round pick in the 2012 draft, selected 88th overall.  The 21-year-old shortstop/center fielder has a .558 OPS in 569 PA over his first three pro seasons, none above the A-ball level.
  • Rough seasons for Xander Bogaerts, Will Middlebrooks and Jackie Bradley were a big reason why the Red Sox suffered through a last-place finish in 2014.  Alex Speier of the Boston Globe examines both why these players struggled and takes a broad overview of how the Sox are adapting their player development system as part of an in-depth four-part series of articles.
  • The main takeaway from Speier’s piece is that the Red Sox felt empowered by their 2013 World Series title to deploy so many youngsters in last year’s starting lineup, and realistically, the team didn’t even expect all three to contribute right away.  The larger roster flaw, according to Speier, may have been that Boston didn’t acquire enough veteran depth last winter to account for some growing pains by their three young starters.  In response, the Red Sox began adding notable veterans even before last season ended, and now theoretically have protection should Bogaerts, Bradley or other unproven talents like Mookie Betts or Rusney Castillo underperform.
  • Speier’s piece also explores some bigger-picture topics, such as how the Red Sox are dealing with the age-old problem of how to best prepare each individual prospect to be ready for the majors.  This is complicated by the fact that the quality gap between Triple-A and MLB has never been wider, yet top prospects are coming into the game with higher expectations than ever thanks to media hype and fan interest.

AL East Notes: Kuroda, Hardy, Orioles, Ross, Red Sox

Hiroki Kuroda recently opted to return to the Hiroshima Carp in Japan, but the move doesn’t appear to be a shock to the Yankees, Brendan Kuty of NJ.com writes. The team already re-signed Chris Capuano and traded for Nathan Eovaldi, suggesting that the Yankees either knew Kuroda wasn’t coming back or didn’t want to wait for him. Here’s more from the AL East.

  • The Orioles have lost Andrew Miller, Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis and haven’t done much this offseason to make up for those departures, but their winter would have been much worse if they hadn’t re-signed J.J. Hardy, Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com writes. Kubatko suggests that Hardy could have gotten more than the three years and $40MM he received from the Orioles if he’d hit the open market.
  • The Orioles are one of a number of teams that have had quiet offseasons, Andrew Simon of Sports On Earth writes. Despite the departures of Miller, Cruz and Markakis, the O’s might come out fine, as they could easily get more from Manny Machado, Chris Davis and Matt Wieters next season. But they probably still ought to add an outfielder, whether that’s a free agent like Nori Aoki or Colby Rasmus, or a trade acquisition like Marlon Byrd of the Phillies or one of a number of Padres outfielders.
  • Catcher David Ross recently agreed to a two-year deal with the Cubs, rebuffing the Red Sox and Padres, and Rob Bradford of WEEI.com provides an interesting chronicle of those negotiations. The Red Sox didn’t want to go to two years for Ross, and Jon Lester‘s decision to sign with Chicago rather than Boston might have had some effect on the Cubs’ willingness to commit to more years for Ross. Ross told the Red Sox he would sign with the Cubs, but then the Padres made a strong offer, which Ross told his agent they would discuss after he worked out. By the time that workout ended, the Padres had traded Ryan Hanigan to Boston, and there was also a report that Ross and the Padres had agreed to terms. “I couldn’€™t believe it,” says Ross, who ended up honoring his commitment to the Cubs. Ross adds that the level of interest in him took him by surprise after he hit just .184/.260/.368 in 50 games last season.

Yankees Notes: Hardy, Robertson, Cashman

The Yankees wouldn’t have been willing to offer J.J. Hardy more than two guaranteed years in free agency, Bill Madden of the New York Daily News reports.  The Bronx Bombers had “mild interest” in Hardy had he reached the open market but their recent underwhelming returns on veteran free agents left the team hesitant about a longer-term deal.  Hardy received three years and a vesting option for a fourth in his extension with the Orioles.  Madden predicts the Yankees will look to sign Stephen Drew or Asdrubal Cabrera to a one-year pillow contract as both players look to rebuild their value.

Here’s some more from the 27-time World Series champs…

  • David Robertson could be the first player to accept a qualifying offer, as Joel Sherman of the New York Post feels the closer will remain with the Yankees for at least the 2015 season.  The team figures to issue the $15.3MM, one-year qualifying offer to Robertson as the attached draft pick compensation could hurt his free agent market and make him easier to sign to a long-term deal.  From Robertson’s perspective, accepting the QO would ensure he gets at least one big payday in an uncertain free agent closer market and he’d still be in position to land another big deal in an extension with the Yankees or perhaps even another qualifying offer next winter.  MLBTR’s Steve Adams recently examined Robertson in a free agent profile and predicted he could receive a four-year, $52MM deal this offseason.
  • Now that Brian Cashman has been extended for three years, the general manager will be able to “create a Yankees team in his own image, with his own vision and his own players, and to finally build his own legacy,” ESPN New York’s Wallace Matthews writes.  This may seem odd given that Cashman has already been the team’s GM since 1998, though Matthews argues that Cashman has never had to truly build a team since the Yankees always had the “Core Four” backbone in place since the Gene Michael/Bob Watson management era.
  • In a conference call with reporters (including MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch), Cashman said that “I think it’s best to assume that we should have contingencies in place” should Alex Rodriguez no longer be able to handle regular third base duties.  “Until we get to see it on a daily basis, I think it’s just hard to assume anything,” Cashman said.  Joe Girardi recently spoke with Rodriguez about working out at first base, and A-Rod could provide some valuable depth at the position given Mark Teixeira‘s injury history.

Orioles Extend J.J. Hardy

OCT. 10: Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun has the breakdown of Hardy’s contract (Twitter links). Hardy will earn $11.5MM in 2015, $12.5MM in 2016 and $14MM in 2017, per Connolly. He adds that the vesting option is valued at $14MM as well and comes with a $2MM buyout. The option will vest based on a certain number of plate appearances but will also automatically vest if Hardy is traded. Hardy can also earn up to $700K per season in performance incentives, according to Connolly, who also tweets that the deal does contain some deferred money.

OCT. 9: Shaking up the free agent market before it opens, and boldly looking to the future even as they prepare to open play in the ALCS, the Orioles have officially announced a three-year extension with shortstop J.J. Hardy.

MLB: Minnesota Twins at Baltimore Orioles

Hardy will receive $40MM over a guaranteed three year term, representing a $13.3MM average annual value, though that must be discounted somewhat to reflect the deal’s inclusion of $6.5MM in deferred money. Hardy also gets a fourth-year vesting option, based upon plate appearances.

With the new deal, Baltimore will keep its key cog up the middle under team control through at least 2017, his age-34 season. And the free agent market has now lost one of its most appealing everyday position players.

Looking first at Hardy, who just celebrated his 32nd birthday, one finds a player whose profile has changed, but who nevertheless remains consistently productive. Manager Buck Showalter is said to have had a hand in encouraging an early reunion of Hardy and the O’s, reflecting the veteran’s respected standing in the organization.

Since coming to Baltimore in a lopsided trade with the Twins, Hardy has been a steady three-to-four win player, whether one prefers fWAR or rWAR. But how he’s reached those overall levels of production have changed dramatically.

In his first (and best) year in Baltimore, Hardy racked up 30 home runs and a .491 slugging percentage. Over the next two seasons, he steadily contributed twenty or more long balls, but saw his overall power numbers drop. His glove remained sharp, however, and a declining strikeout percentage offered promise. But things swung in 2014, when Hardy suddenly suffered a power outage (he recovered to hit 9 bombs by season’s end, but ended with a career-low .104 ISO) and saw his strikeout rate leap to a career high of 18.3%.

Obviously, those offensive numbers have swung rather widely, with Hardy posting anything from a 78 to a 113 wRC+. But what has not changed much has been his glove. Indeed, in his two down years at the plate (2012 and 2014), Hardy’s even upped his game in the field — at least according to UZR and Defensive Runs Saved. This year, Hardy rated a close second to Andrelton Simmons in overall defensive value among shortstops.

For Baltimore, then, Hardy’s work up the middle sets the floor while his power bat provides the upside in his new extension. While it had been expected, and perhaps hoped, that Manny Machado would slide over from third after this season, that option waned after Machado suffered a second-straight season-ending knee injury. If he can return to health, however, he’ll join Hardy to form the game’s best left-side infield defense.

The deal is not without its risks for the O’s, but few are. And limiting the terms to three years, with the fourth coming via a vesting provision, does reduce the magnitude of the risk somewhat.

More importantly, perhaps, it may have been more challenging to retain Hardy — or find an able replacement — had the team not struck during a brief lull in the postseason action. After all, while, the upcoming free agent market includes several shortstops who have at times been every bit as good as Hardy, none — excepting Hanley Ramirez, who may not stay at the position — has been as consistent. Those that remain, including Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Stephen Drew, should benefit from Hardy’s absence, if only because they would have had to wait to sign until he found a home. But the Orioles were likely to find a veteran shortstop one way or another, so the real impact may be on clubs that were hoping to make a run at Hardy.

Ultimately, while Baltimore does not look to have achieved any huge bargain, the club probably saved money against what Hardy might have cost to take back from the open market. Though he would have had to deal with qualifying offer-related draft compensation, Hardy no doubt would have looked to land a new contract somewhere in the realm of Jhonny Peralta‘s four-year, $53MM pact from last year.

Jeremy Conn of 105.7 The Fan was first to report that an extension was close (Twitter link), while Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported the deal’s parameters on Twitter. Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com was first to tweet the final financial terms. MLB.com’s Britt Ghiroli (via Twitter) and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (also via Twitter) reported that the deal was done. 

Orioles, J.J. Hardy Nearing Extension

The Orioles are closing in on an extension with shortstop J.J. Hardy and could announce an agreement this afternoon, Jeremy Conn of 105.7 The Fan reports on Twitter. Terms are expected to land at three years and over $40MM, with an option of some kind included on the back end, according to a tweet from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.

An extension has long been rumored to be a possibility. But reports indicated that talks never really got started over the winter and early portion of the season.

Things have changed since that time, of course. For one, Manny Machado — long considered the eventual replacement for Hardy at short — suffered a second consecutive season-ending knee surgery and has in any event established himself as a premier defensive third baseman. On top of that, as you might have noticed, the O’s cruised to the American League East crown and into the ALCS. While it is hard to know whether that had any role in Baltimore’s thinking, the added current and future revenue stream surely did not hurt.

Of course, Hardy’s performance has had its ups and downs this year. While his power numbers are down, and he was fairly inconsistent at the plate on the whole, Hardy continues to provide immense value with his glove. In the aggregate, Hardy was once again about a 3-and-a-half win player in the regular season.

While several other useful shortstop options are present on the upcoming free agent market, Hardy seemed to be the prize — at least for clubs looking for an option that promises to stick at the position over the duration of the contract. (Hanley Ramirez, it seems fair to say, does not fit that description.) His absence from the market would be a boon to the likes of Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Stephen Drew.