When Jhonny Peralta signed a four-year, $52 million free agent contract in November with the St. Louis Cardinals, the Orioles brass probably took note.
Some feel the Peralta deal is a comp - a good comparison for a possible deal between J.J. Hardy and the Orioles. Hardy can be a free agent after this season and the Orioles say they want to re-sign him.
They are both shortstops and both are 31. They have some similar offensive statistics, but Peralta is ahead of Hardy on offense with Hardy the better defender. Both have been two-time All-Stars.
Peralta got a real nice contract from the Cardinals, but some feel they overpaid to get a player at a position of big need for them. Peralta was also helped by not having draft pick compensation tied to his signing. Potentially hurting his value was his 50-game PED suspension last season as a result of his part in the Biogenesis scandal.
But will the O's need to pay that big to retain Hardy? Should they?
Hardy has been an Oriole for the last three years and here is how the two players stack up over that time frame:
Peralta: .278 average, .334 OBP, .438 slugging, .772 OPS.
Hardy: .256 average, .298 OBP, .434 slugging, .732 OPS.
Over the last three seasons, Peralta is worth 11.0 wins above replacement according to FanGraphs and Hardy is worth 10.3. The value of these players seems to be quite close.
Here is how they stack up over their respective careers:
Peralta: .268 average, .330 OBP, .425 slugging, .755 OPS
Hardy: .260 average, .312 OBP, .428 slugging, .740 OPS
Hardy has won two straight Gold Gloves, while some consider Peralta only in the average range on defense. Peralta's value is more from getting a good bat at a premium defensive position and Hardy provides the more well-rounded player that can help on both offense and defense.
In the final year of his St. Louis contract, and that is 2017, Peralta will turn 35 on May 28. Hardy will turn 35 on Aug. 19, 2017.
There is no doubt some have concerns about signing Hardy to a three- or four-year deal, as he will be in his mid-30s toward the of the contract. Will he still be a top defensive shortstop then?
Complicating all of this for the Orioles is that they have a good young shortstop in Manny Machado, who happens to currently play at third base. No doubt Manny could move to short and be a solid defender, maybe even a spectacular one there as well. Of course if Hardy leaves via free agency and Machado slides over to short, now the O's have to figure out who will play at third.
Hardy is the only shortstop in the major leagues with at least 20 homers in each of the last three seasons and he leads all major league shortstops with 77 homers and 224 RBIs since joining the O's in 2011.
He is just the third shortstop in O's history to win the Gold Glove award in consecutive years, joining Cal Ripken Jr. (1991-92) and Mark Belanger (six straight from 1973-78).
Hardy is the quarterback of the O's defense and a very important player on this team. Young players can learn a lot from him, a player that sets a pretty good example for how anyone should approach the game.
Now he enters what could be his last season as an Oriole. Should the club look to re-sign him, and should that Peralta contract serve as a possible guideline for a Hardy deal with the Orioles?