Has J.J. Hardy taken the upper hand in contract talks with the Orioles?

You have to figure J.J. Hardy has the upper hand right now in any contract negotiations he and his agent will have with the Orioles.

For one, he is having a super season and playing at a very high level. For two, he can simply choose to be a free agent at the end of this year and have several teams pursuing him. For three, the Orioles might be facing a deadline in these talks. If they can't sign him over the next few weeks, would they be forced to trade him by the July 31 deadline before he could leave via free agency?

He is in a good bargaining position, I would think, right now.

At this point, it is hard to say which has been more impressive, Hardy's defense or his bat. He makes all the routine plays at short, plus several tough ones and shows an amazingly accurate arm.

At bat, he has 13 homers and could top his career high of 26 he hit with Milwaukee in 2007. That year, he averaged a homer every 22.8 at-bats and this year he hits one every 16.8 at-bats.

With 79 games left, let's say Hardy plays in 70 of those games and gets 280 at-bats the rest of this season. At his current pace, he would hit 16 more homers.

He could set a new career high and make a run at hitting 30 homers. Imagine what a top defensive shortstop that can hit 30 homers could get via free agency?

Injuries limited Hardy to 115 and 101 games the past two years, so there are some durability concerns in giving him a new multi-year contract. Despite that, I don't think the O's can risk not keeping him here.

It appears the Orioles made a shrewd trade and have acquired the best shortstop they've had in years. But now can they keep him?

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