What happened to J.J. Hardy’s home runs?

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J.J. Hardy has picked a bad time to forget he’s a power hitter. With free agency around the corner this offseason the Orioles shortstop has yet to homer in 47 games and 193 plate appearances this season, which is awfully strange considering he smacked 25, 22, and 30 homers in the previous three years and has averaged 22 homers per 160 games for his career.

Dating back to last season Hardy has now gone 70 games without a homer. Also odd: Hardy, who’s a career .262 hitter, has a .306 batting average and is within shouting distance (.702) of his lifetime OPS (.738) despite the lack of pop.

Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun asked Hardy what’s going on:

I’ve got no explanation. Yeah, obviously, it crosses my mind, but I try not to think about it as much as I can. I think the same approach, hits will keep coming. Honestly, whenever I’ve hit homers, it’s always come in bunches. I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes. I’m going to continue to try to put good at-bats together and get on base, and hopefully, the homers come. … I feel pretty good physically.

Baseball is weird.

Report: Phillies interested in Manny Machado; Orioles have done homework on Phillies’ minor league system

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Orioles third baseman Manny Machado will become a free agent after the 2018 season and there hasn’t been much in the way of progress on a contract extension between the two sides. It seems as if Machado will test the open market next offseason.

The Phillies, currently with relatively minuscule obligations for the 2018 season and beyond, are expected to be big players for Machado, as well as other potential free agents like Bryce Harper. In fact, the Phillies may not even want to wait until next offseason, as Roch Kubatko of MASN reports that the club has expressed interest in Machado to the Orioles. In return, the O’s have been doing their homework on the Phillies’ minor league system.

Kubatko notes that the Orioles like, in particular, Phillies prospects Sixto Sanchez and Scott Kingery. The Phillies may be hesitant to part with either considering they can get Machado for a lot of cash but no prospects next winter. MLB Pipeline rates Sanchez as the Phillies’ best pitching prospect and the second-best prospect overall in the system. Kingery is third overall and the top infielder. While the Phillies’ system is among the best in baseball, its notable weakness is pitching, so parting with Sanchez — who throws in the upper 90’s and can hit triple digits — would be a big ask. Kingery is seen as the club’s next second baseman of the future, so much so that the Phillies are shopping Cesar Hernandez at the Winter Meetings.

As usual with rumors during the Winter Meetings, there may be some smoke but no actual fire here. The Orioles are likely to get continued interest in Machado from many teams between now and the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. They are simply doing their due diligence by seeing what the Phillies and others have to offer for Machado.