Orioles set to talk extension with J.J. Hardy

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When the Orioles signed shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $22.5 million extension in 2011, many figured he’d eventually become trade bait because of the need to make room for Manny Machado. However, with those two co-existing just fine in the Baltimore infield, Orioles GM Dan Duquette told MASN’s Roch Kubatko he will approach Hardy about a new deal prior to Opening Day.

The 31-year-old Hardy will likely want a bigger contract this time around. He won his first Gold Glove in 2012 and then repeated last season. He’s also combined for 77 homers in his three seasons in Baltimore, easily the most in the majors among shortstops during that time frame. Next on the list is Troy Tulowitzki at 64. Hardy isn’t truly that valuable offensively — those homers have come with a .298 OBP — but the pop, durability and steady glove will lead to plenty of demand if he hits free agency.

With that in mind, Hardy could ask for a deal similar to the four-year, $53 million pact that Jhonny Peralta got from the Cardinals this winter. The two are the same age, and while Peralta’s best offensive seasons have easily outstripped Hardy’s, the historical difference between the two isn’t so great (Peralta has a career 101 OPS+, while Hardy is at 96). Hardy is probably the better player of the two after factoring in defense.

Mets invite Tim Tebow to spring training

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Tim Tebow isn’t letting go of his major league dreams just yet. The former NFL quarterback is slated to appear with the Mets during spring training this year, extending what initially looked like an ill-fated career choice for at least one more season. Per the club’s official announcement on Friday, he’ll join a group of spring training invitees that includes top-30 prospects like Peter Alonso, P.J. Conlon, Patrick Mazeika and David Thompson.

Tebow, 30, hasn’t taken to professional baseball as gracefully as expected. He batted a cumulative .226/.309/.347 with eight home runs and a .656 OPS in 486 plate appearances for Single-A Columbia and High-A St. Lucie in 2017. While that wasn’t enough to compel the Mets to give the aging outfielder a big league tryout, there’s no denying that Tebow brought substantial benefit to their minor league affiliates — in the form of increased attendance figures and ticket sales, that is.

Even after the Mets were booted from the NL East race last September, they resisted the idea of promoting Tebow for a late-season attendance boost of their own. That’s not to say they’re planning on taking the same approach in 2018; Tebow will undoubtedly get his cup of coffee in the majors at some point, but for now, a Grapefruit League tryout is likely as close as he’ll ever get to playing with the team’s big league roster on an everyday basis.