Can Hardy's new deal send a message to other free agents?

So the question to J.J. Hardy today was a pretty obvious one to ask.

How did he weigh agreeing to his new three-year contract with the Orioles against the possibility of being a free agent at the end of the year? If he were a free agent, he could hit the open market and seek to play for a better team or go to the highest bidder.

"You know my agent and I, we pretty much went over every team that would be possibly looking for a shortstop this offseason," Hardy said today in the O's clubhouse. "The biggest thing for me was the fact that I have been having fun here. I like this clubhouse and organization. That was a big part for me."

Hardy signing on for three more years here you would think would be a real positive for the Orioles in their potential pursuit of other free agents down the road. Here's a player that probably could have gotten more money had he waiting to become a free agent this winter.

He likes it here, likes the team's potential and wanted to stay. That should say something to other players around the game and maybe even to some downtrodden Orioles fans.

Hardy teammate Nick Markakis was very excited about the news the Orioles locked up their shortstop with a new deal.

"It means a lot. You guys watch him play everyday and see what he brings to the table," Markakis said. "I get the opportunity to play with him (more) and I appreciate what he does. Whether he is a leadoff guy or not, he's done a great job filling in for B-Rob. He plays the game hard and plays it right. He's the type of guy you want on your team."

Hardy's contract is still not official. He has to take a physical and sign the paperwork, but that should be a formality at this point.

"It feels good, but I'm sure it will hit me more when I see the papers and sign them," Hardy said.

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