On the open market, Hardy wouldn’t have been the top name, as Hanley Ramirez would hold that title. But Ramirez is more of a third baseman at this point in his career, and the other options – Asdrubal Cabrera, Jed Lowrie, and Stephen Drew – are not quite as attractive as the quietly consistent Hardy. JJ probably could have commanded a four-year deal similar to what Jhonny Peralta received from the Cardinals, in the neighborhood of $53 million. Of course, Hardy isn’t quite the offensive force that Peralta has been this year, but overall they’re fairly similar players.
In return for Hardy and Harris, the Twins received only pitchers Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey. Jacobson never saw the majors and Hoey was lousy for the Twins and never pitched in MLB after the 2011 season. Obviously, this trade really did not work out for the Twins, even though Hardy had a deplorable 2010 season on offense.
Hardy has racked up 14.7 Wins Above Replacement in 4 seasons in Baltimore, making him one of the more underrated starters in baseball. Even in down offensive years in 2012 and 2014, he’s continued to produce at an above-average rate for shortstops. He’s batted .259/.301/.420 with 86 home runs for Baltimore after putting up a .262/.323/.428 line in 5 seasons with Milwaukee with a dreadful season in between in Minnesota. It would be good to see Hardy regain his previous 20+ homer power, but clearly, he’s still the same player he’s been all along, just occasionally suffering from really bad cold streaks on the plate.
This is a great extension for the Orioles, who will likely keep star Manny Machado over at third base after back-to-back season-ending knee injuries. Hardy may have commanded even more money on the open market, but clearly he wants to stay with Baltimore. It’s not hard to understand why, with the Orioles “acquiring” catcher Matt Wieters and the aforementioned Machado back from the 60-day DL. The Orioles now only have to worry about the impending free agency of slugging outfielder Nelson Cruz, useful bench player Delmon Young, and excellent lefty reliever Andrew Miller. They also have a mutual option for 2015 looming with former franchise cornerstone Nick Markakis, who’s had a decent 2014 but whose career has been badly derailed by injuries. If Cruz leaves, which is completely possible, expect to see Markakis back for the Birds.
At the very least, the Orioles will be secure in knowing that they have someone who is quietly one of the best shortstops in the game for another three years.