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.