Orioles start Hardy talks; Orioles agree to terms with two more

Orioles President of Baseball Operations Andy MacPhail touched base with J.J. Hardy's agent this week to begin talks about a potential contract extension for the hot-hitting shortstop.

Hardy will become a free agent after the season, and MacPhail has voiced his desire to reach an agreement with the 28-year-old who has been one of the team's best players through the first half.

Talks haven't gotten serious to this point, but that should change as the Orioles get closer to the July 31 trade deadline. With the struggles of veterans Derrek Lee and Vladimir Guerrero, Hardy has emerged as arguably the Orioles' biggest trade chip as several contenders, including the Cincinnati Reds, Milwaukee Brewers and San Francisco Giants, could be looking for a shortstop upgrade.

Hardy has nine home runs this month, one shy of tying Miguel Tejada's record for homers in a month by an Orioles shortstop. Tejada hit 10 in August 2007. Hardy's 11 home runs this year are three more than the Orioles shortstop hit the last three years combined.

The Orioles have agreed to terms with two more draft picks - 15th-rounder Eric Wooten, a left-handed pitcher out of Central Arizona Junior College, and 21st-rounder Jose Rivera, a right-handed pitcher out of Hill Junior College.

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