The Baltimore Orioles have been relatively quiet throughout the 2013-14 offseason, as frustrating as that’s been for their fans who expected this team to make at least one significant addition prior to the 2014 campaign. While they have yet to do so, this team is still in relatively good shape heading into the new season. Of course, the looming threat of multiple players departing over the course of the next few years is a concern for a smaller market club like the O’s, and one of those players that is headed for free agency in the very near future is J.J. Hardy.
There have been whispers this offseason as to the potential for negotiations for a contract extension for the Orioles’ shortstop, but it still remains something of a debate as to whether or not signing Hardy to a long term deal even makes sense for Baltimore. It’s no secret that the two sides would like to come together on such a deal, though what kind of contract Hardy might be looking for remains a mystery.
Nonetheless, the question of whether or not the O’s should sign J.J. Hardy to an extension is a valid one. After all, this is a team that employs Manny Machado as their third baseman, and eventually the face of their franchise if he’s not already. While Machado has enjoyed enormous success at the hot corner, it’s a known fact that his natural position is shortstop. The assumption has long been that when Hardy leaves, whether through trade or free agency, Machado would shift back over to short.
Not so fast. The fact that Machado has been so successful at third base is part of what would make a Hardy extension so logical. Machado represents one of the best in the game from a defensive standpoint, and his metrics with the glove are off the charts. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Not only do the Orioles have the luxury of not having to move Machado back, keeping Hardy around would ensure that the they have the best left side of the infield in the game. Not only does Machado bring it with the leather, but Hardy went for a UZR/150 of six last year, and that represented a down year for him. He’s plenty capable with the stick as well, with a steady slash line of .263/.306/.433/.738 and a wRC+ of 99. Naturally, you’d like that OBP to be up a bit higher, though.
Perhaps part of the reason that the Orioles have been so quiet this winter is the fact that they’re trying to maintain this current core group. Not only do they have Hardy to worry about, but Chris Davis and Matt Wieters as well. While some might question the purpose in re-signing a guy like J.J. Hardy when Machado is in the mix, it’s hard to argue that this is a better club with Hardy on the roster than without him.