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

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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.

Hyun-Jin Ryu will open season in Dodgers’ rotation

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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu will open the regular season in the starting rotation, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports.

Ryu, 30, missed the entire 2015 season and made only one start last season due to shoulder and elbow injuries. The lefty has looked solid in three spring appearances, however, yielding a lone run on five hits and a walk with eight strikeouts in nine innings.

With Scott Kazmir likely to begin the season on the disabled list, that leaves Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy to battle it out for the fifth spot in the Dodgers’ rotation.

Jorge Soler diagnosed with strained oblique, Opening Day in doubt

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Royals outfielder Jorge Soler has been diagnosed with a strained oblique, making it likely that he begins the regular season on the disabled list, Rustin Dodd of The Kansas City Star reports.

The Royals acquired Soler from the Cubs in December in exchange for reliever Wade Davis. Over parts of three seasons with the Cubs, Soler hit .258/.328/.434 with 27 home runs and 98 RBI in 765 plate appearances.

When he’s healthy, Soler is expected to find himself in the Royals’ lineup as a right fielder and occasionally as a designated hitter.