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.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.

Report: Jose Ramirez close to four-year extension with Indians

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Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reports that third baseman Jose Ramirez is finalizing a four-year extension with the Indians. The deal is said to be worth north of $30 million, and may crest $50 million if all options are exercised. While the extension won’t take effect until the 2018 season, it guarantees Ramirez a $26 million sum with two options worth $11 and $13 million and will give the Indians control of the infielder through the 2023 season.

Ramirez, 24, is entering his fifth season in the Indians’ organization. He posted career-high numbers during his first full season in the majors, slashing .312/.363/.461 with 11 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 4.8 fWAR in 2016. He’s projected to have a strong follow-up season at the plate and will likely see some time at second base as Jason Kipnis works his way back from a shoulder injury.

Although 2016 only showcased the beginning of Ramirez’s success with the club, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman says it’s a standard move for Cleveland to “sign their stars early,” and indicates that Ramirez was rumored to want the deal. Jeff Todd of MLB Trade Rumors adds that the extension will keep Ramirez under club control through three arbitration-eligible years and one year of potential free agency.