J.J. Hardy and the Orioles agree to contract extension

32 Comments

J.J. Hardy cut off contract extension talks with the Orioles when the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement by the end of spring training, but now Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that Baltimore is close to signing the impending free agent shortstop to a new deal.

According to Rosenthal it’s a three-year deal worth at least $40 million and includes a fourth-year option.

Announcing a contract extension one day before the ALCS is odd timing, especially after Hardy and the Orioles avoided talks throughout the regular season, but with free agency right around the corner and plenty of teams in need of a good all-around shortstop–chief among them the Yankees–Baltimore obviously didn’t want to see him hit the open market.

Hardy was acquired from the Twins in a lopsided 2011 trade and then signed a three-year, $22.5 million extension to stay with the Orioles. In four total seasons in Baltimore he’s hit .259 with a .720 OPS while consistently rating among the best defensive shortstops in baseball.

Fan Graphs says he’s been worth an average of $17 million per season for the past four years, so the Orioles got a huge bargain on Hardy from 2011-2014 and maintaining that level of performance would make the new contract a relative bargain as well. However, this new deal will begin with his age-32 season and that’s always a big risk for shortstops.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

Getty Images
5 Comments

MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.