Hardy signing still a bargain

The Orioles have been quiet since reaching agreement Wednesday with outfielder Delmon Young on a one-year deal. The warehouse is closed, though executive vice president Dan Duquette remains open for business if anyone wants to talk.

The wrapping paper is still scattered under the tree, but the Orioles received an early present on Oct. 9 when shortstop J.J. Hardy signed a three-year, $40 million extension with a club option for 2018.

Hardy could have gotten a bigger deal on the free agent market. The Yankees were viewed as the early favorites. The Orioles were viewed as a team that would rather disband than see Hardy in pinstripes.

jj-hardy-ALCS gray sidebar.pngIt wasn’t about the money for Hardy, and that’s a rarity in sports these days. He is truly happy and comfortable in Baltimore. He fits perfectly in the clubhouse. He wants to play for manager Buck Showalter.

Nick Markakis felt the same way, of course, but Duquette didn’t believe he had a foundation to get a deal done in October. Markakis figured to be an easy signing, but it didn’t play out that way. Then came the MRI and concerns over the disc/fusion surgery.

Retaining Hardy became even more important with the departures of Markakis, Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller. Imagine if the Orioles lost him, too.

“When we looked at the market,” Duquette said after the deal was announced, “we thought the best chance to sign J.J. was before he went to free agency because he’s distinguished himself as one of the top shortstops in the league.”

In other words, keep him away from the Yankees or anyone else willing to spend big on a Gold Glove shortstop.

Hardy is a bargain compared to other contracts doled out this winter.

The negotiations were puzzling, mainly because they ceased until the playoffs. Nothing in spring training, nothing during the season. Hardy didn’t understand it and the rest of us were just as confused.

The sense of urgency wasn’t there, which isn’t uncommon with the Orioles, and then it appeared at a most unexpected time.

Don’t look for a repeat with Scott Boras clients Matt Wieters, Chris Davis and Wei-Yin Chen. But that’s another worry for another time.

Here are the remaining shortstops on the free agent market. Let me know if you’d prefer any of them over Hardy:

Asdrubal Cabrera
Everth Cabrera
Stephen Drew
Jonathan Herrera
John McDonald

One of the more interesting questions for the upcoming season is whether Hardy’s power will return. He’s hit 30, 22, 25 and nine home runs in his four seasons with the Orioles. The 30 home runs in 2011 came in only 129 games.

I’m going to be spending the rest of the day and night serving as best man at a friend’s wedding. My colleague, Steve Melewski, will handle any news that breaks.

I’m expecting it to stay quiet, but you know how that works.

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