J.J. Hardy wore out his welcome in Minnesota after one season, in part because Ron Gardenhire wanted more speed in the lineup, in part because Hardy missed one-third of the season with injuries, and in part because the Twins didn’t seem to grasp that excellent defense and a decent bat made him one of the league’s best all-around shortstops.
Apparently the Orioles like Hardy a lot more, as team president Andy MacPhail told Jeff Zrebiec of the Baltimore Sun that they’re interested in signing him to a multi-year contract extension before the 28-year-old becomes a free agent at the end of the season:
There’s no reason why he wouldn’t be an asset here for years to come. I definitely think we’ll have conversations. There’s no question about it. The closer you get for free agency, the more difficult it is for players to want that extension. I think it’s something that we definitely targeted before the All-Star break to talk about.
For his part, Hardy told Zrebiec that he likes playing for the Orioles, but added: “Some of it has to do with what my agent thinks.”
Hardy hasn’t been injury free this year either, missing nearly a month with an oblique strain, but has yet to commit an error in 36 games while hitting .287 with six homers and an .836 OPS that ranks fifth among MLB shortstops behind only Jose Reyes, Jhonny Peralta, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Troy Tulowitzki.
Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.
Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:
I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.
The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.
The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.
Colby Rasmus isn’t ready to take outfield reps just yet. According to Rays’ manager Kevin Cash, that’s a red flag, one that could potentially postpone Rasmus’ debut as the club’s designated hitter and outfielder in 2017. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports that Rasmus will need to prove he can play a defensive position before getting cleared for the active roster, something which the veteran outfielder has yet to do this spring.
Rasmus, 30, signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Rays following his two-year run with the Astros. He batted a meager .206/.286/.355 with 15 home runs and a .641 OPS in 2016 and was shut down in late September with an unspecified hip/groin issue. Entering the 2017 season, he’s expected to work his way back to a full-time role after undergoing surgery to repair his core muscle and left hip labrum last October.
The Rays also finalized their one-year, $1.2 million deal with catcher Derek Norris on Saturday and will need to clear room for him on the 40-man roster. Topkin speculates that the move could send Rasmus to the 60-day disabled list, though the outfielder is not projected to miss more than a couple weeks of the regular season.