Why did the O’s sign J.J. Hardy now? Because the shortstop market is a hot mess

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It’s unusual to see a player get a contract extension during the playoffs. Especially a player whose team is still in the playoffs. But the Orioles handed one out to J.J. Hardy yesterday. And when you look around at the free agent market for shortstops, you can see why they did it.

Hardly anything worth signing is going to be available. Yes, there are a couple of big names like Hanley Ramirez and Asdrubal Cabrera, but both of those guys have probably peaked and any suitor is going to paying for a decline. Not to mention the fact that one team — the Nationals — has already decided that Cabrera is best used at second base and any other team would be wise to move Ramirez off of shortstop too.

Who else does that leave? Stephen Drew? Yeah, that worked really well this year. Jed Lowrie? He’s 30 and often injured. Combine that with many, many teams looking for a shortstop — the Yankees and Mets chief among them — and you can see that Hardy would’ve been the subject of a bidding war.

Nelson Cruz hits 400th career home run

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Twins DH Nelson Cruz hit his 400th career home run, a solo home run in the fourth inning of Sunday’s game against the Royals. The blast padded the Twins’ lead to 8-6, and was also No. 40 on the season for Cruz.

Cruz, 39, is the 57th member of the 400-homer club. He was previously tied with Andres Galarraga and Al Kaline at 399. Cruz has hit 163 of his homers with the Mariners, 157 with the Rangers, and 40 each with the Orioles and Twins.

Cruz entered Sunday batting .300/.383/.624 with 104 RBI in 500 plate appearances. Pretty good production for the Twins from a slugger on a one-year, $14.3 million contract. The Twins hold a $12 million club option for 2020 as well.