J.J. Hardy Rumors

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.


Yankees Links: Ichiro, Offseason, Hardy, Jeter

When asked if he’d return to the Yankees in 2015, Ichiro Suzuki told reporters (including NJ.com’s Brendan Kuty) via an interpreter, “That might be a question you shouldn’t ask right now.”  Suzuki said he intends to continue his career, though other comments hinting at some clubhouse drama seem to imply that his time in the pinstripes could be over.  “Obviously there’s a lot of things that go on that the fans and the media can’t see, that goes on inside (the club),” Suzuki said.  “But what I can say is that the experiences I had this year, those experiences are going to help me in the future. It’ll be somewhat of a support for me because of the experiences I had this year.”

Here’s some more Yankees news…

  • While the Yankees will keep an eye on free agents Jon Lester, Max Scherzer and James Shields, “the early industry vibe is the Yankees aren’t going to spend big money this winter,” George A. King III of the New York Post reports.  It makes sense that the Yankees would take a step back after spending over $550MM on player salaries last offseason, though by the Yankees’ standards, what they consider “not big money” could still result in a significant cash outlay.
  • Also from King, free agent shortstop J.J. Hardy is “the early favorite” to take over the shortstop job in the Bronx next season.  Hardy will draw a lot of attention on the open market, though there’s also a chance he could stay in Baltimore — MASNsports.com’s Steve Melewski made the point in August that the O’s could see Hardy as a long-term answer at shortstop if Manny Machado‘s injuries prevent him from eventually switching positions.
  • Was Derek Jeter‘s 10-year, $189MM deal actually a bargain for the Yankees?  CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa believes it was, given Jeter’s consistent production from 2001-10 and his immense off-the-field value to the organization in boosting everything from TV ratings to merchandise sales.  Jeter’s deal also has a case as the best completed $100MM+ contract in baseball history — Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez topped Jeter in terms of WAR, but Jeter’s role as a franchise icon may trump those three in terms of overall value to his team.

Olney On Qualifying Offer Candidates

In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.

Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…

  • The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
  • It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
  • The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
  • Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
  • Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
  • Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.

Cafardo On Hamels, Cruz, Hardy, Tomas

In today’s column, Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe looks at Jake Peavy‘s effect on the Giants this season. “He brings a lot of intensity, he brings a lot of energy, he brings a lot of veteran leadership, he brings a lot of guts,” Hunter Pence said last week. “He’s been a big charge to this run we’ve made. That energy is exciting to be around. It’s a different dugout when he’s in it.”  More from today’s column..

  • John Boggs, the agent for Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels, told Cafardo he will sit down with his client and put together a new 20-team no-trade list by November 1.  Boggs says the Red Sox were on Hamels’s 2014 no-trade list and the Phillies would have to have asked permission to deal him to Boston. “It doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have accepted it,” Boggs said. “We are still deliberating on what teams will be on that list for 2015.”
  • After a one-year pillow offer, Nelson Cruz appears to have riches awaiting for him this winter.  The Orioles will make him the $15MM+ qualifying offer, but he’ll be in demand as one of the few right-handed power hitters out there.  The Yankees can be expected to have interest and the Rangers could look to bring him back.
  • Manager Buck Showalter has talked with J.J. Hardy about how much the Orioles want him to re-sign, but they may not offer the most money. Showalter said the team would make him a fair offer, but he tried to appeal to how much Hardy has enjoyed playing in Baltimore.
  • Showalter is a realist when it comes to the Orioles‘ financial limitations, but he feels he can still come up with good players going the minor league free agent route. The Orioles did it with journeyman first baseman/outfielder Steve Pearce, who has had an excellent season.  Showalter feels that he can do it again with 28-32 year old hitters that are just starting to figure it out.
  • One team’s international scout tells Cafardo that Yasmani Tomas could command as much as $100MM.  The scout said Tomas has gotten himself in shape and if he performs well at his showcase later in the month, the money will get “really high.”
  • One American League evaluator thinks it’s possible for the Phillies to move Ryan Howard to the American League, where he could be a full-time DH. “He’s not a lost cause,” said the evaluator. “He’s knocked in 92 runs for a bad team, so there’s obviously something still there. He could help an American League team as a DH.” However, that would require the Phillies to eat a good portion of the $60MM left on his contract.

East Notes: Murphy, Colon, Hardy, Machado

The Mets are likely to shop Daniel Murphy again this offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post writes. The free agent market for hitters is weak, so they might be able to do well in a deal. If they do trade him, Wilmer Flores could take over at second until a more permanent starter emerges, perhaps prospect Dilson Herrera. The Mets also could wait to trade Murphy until next summer. A long-term deal seems unlikely. Here are more notes from the East Coast.

  • The Mets placed Bartolo Colon on revocable waivers today, and while he’s pitched reasonably well this season and is only due $11MM in 2015, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweets that one executive thinks that a waiver claim would be “like a lightning bolt from the heavens for the Mets.”
  • Manny Machado‘s season-ending knee injury could impact whether J.J. Hardy returns to the Orioles next season, Steve Melewski of MASNsports.com suggests. Hardy is a free agent, and the idea was that Machado would move to shortstop once he left. With Machado’s knee issues, though, it’s not yet clear whether he will be able to handle the move to a tougher spot on the diamond.
  • The Orioles are unlikely to make a move to replace Machado at third, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports. Trades are difficult this time of year, and it would be difficult for the Orioles to find someone who could improve on Chris Davis and Ryan Flaherty anyway.

Quick Hits: Hardy, Braves, Cardinals, Phillies

Here’s the latest from around the game …

  • Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is not currently engaged in extension talks with Baltimore and could make sense to a lot of clubs on the free agent market, says Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (audio link). But he would still fit back with the O’s, with club executive vice president Dan Duquette telling Rosenthal that the team puts a high value on keeping Manny Machado‘s glove at third, seemingly indicating that it may not look to move him back to his natural short. Though Hardy has not repeated his home run tallied from recent seasons, he is still a just-below-average offensive contributor with outstanding defense, and both major methods of calculating wins above replacement see him as having already contributed 2.5 WAR this year.
  • The Braves were close to pulling off a major deadline deal that would have sent center fielder B.J. Upton and a starter (which could have been either Mike Minor or Ervin Santana) to an unidentified club and for an unidentified return. The nature of the hypothetical return has not been revealed, but Rosenthal says that Atlanta ultimately felt it was not receiving sufficient value in return. Ultimately, the conception of the move was intended more to shake up the roster and clubhouse (in addition, no doubt, to shedding Upton’s future obligations), and Rosenthal says that a deal of that type could be revisited in the offseason.
  • The Cardinals should find a way to upgrade the bench in the coming weeks, opines Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. While Peter Bourjos has been an asset even as he sees less action than Jon Jay, Miklasz looks at the numbers on the rest of the non-regulars and sees plenty of room for improvement.
  • The Phillies have found themselves in a seemingly intractable situation in part due to GM Ruben Amaro Jr.’s willingness to bend and then break the organization’s own rules on limiting pitching contracts, writes Mitch Goldich of Baseball Prospectus. Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jonathan Papelbon, and Cole Hamels were all viewed to some extent as exceptions to the team’s internal guidelines. And while all have had their moments of success, the aggregate commitment (and already-clear lack of back-end value from at least the first three) has played a significant (albeit not exclusive) role in the team’s current predicament.