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.
With the Braves on the cusp of formalizing their one-year deal with Kurt Suzuki, the market for free agent catcher Matt Wieters is dwindling. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick references an inside source that lists the Angels, Rockies and Reds as potential suitors for the 30-year-old’s services.
Wieters is coming off of an eight-year career with the Orioles. In 2016, he played through his first full year after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014 and batted .243/.302/.409 with 17 home runs and a .711 OPS in 464 PA. A return to Baltimore in 2017 isn’t out of the question, Crasnick writes, citing some within the team that would be open to Wieters stepping into a DH role and catching platoon with Wellington Castillo. However, he also points out that the front office appears divided on the veteran catcher, and sees the Orioles as a long shot for the foreseeable future.
The Angels have already been tied to Wieters this offseason, while the Rockies and Reds don’t appear to have made any formal inquiries so far. Both could use a veteran presence behind the dish, as the Rockies are planning to platoon rookie catcher Tom Murphy with 24-year-old Tony Wolters in the spring. The Reds, meanwhile, are banking on a quick recovery for 28-year-old Devin Mesoraco, who missed most of the 2016 season after undergoing shoulder and hip surgery and forced the club to rely almost exclusively on back-up backstop Tucker Barnhart.
The Red Sox are expecting to go to an arbitration hearing with left-handed reliever Fernando Abad, per Pete Abraham of the Boston Globe. Red Sox president Dave Dombrowski said there was a “decent chance” a hearing would be necessary after countering Abad’s $2.7 million request with $2 million.
Abad, 31, pitched just 12 2/3 innings for Boston after the club acquired him from Minnesota at the trade deadline last season. The lefty earned a cumulative 3.66 ERA, 4.2 BB/9 and 7.9 SO/9 for the two teams in 2016. He received $1.25 million in 2016 and will remain under club control (through arbitration) in 2017. A $2.7 million salary would be a hefty increase for the veteran reliever, who has seen a significant decline since he put up a 1.57 ERA for the Athletics in 2014 and who has not amassed more than 0.6 fWAR in any single season to date.
While the Red Sox aren’t close to settling with Abad, Evan Drellich of the Boston Herald reports that they may be closing in on a settlement with left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz. Pomeranz filed at $5.7 million, while the Sox felt more comfortable at $3.6 million. The two are expected to meet somewhere in the middle to avoid an arbitration hearing later this winter.