By Dan Connolly, The Baltimore Sun
9:08 PM EDT, July 15, 2011
The Orioles and shortstop J.J. Hardy continue to make progress on a three-year contract extension that would be worth between $7 million and $8.5 million per season, according to two baseball sources.
"My thought is that I still hope it gets done," Hardy said. "I know my agent and [director of baseball operations] Matt Klentak have been talking. I don't know exactly where they are at or what they are thinking. If it gets done or not before the trade deadline, I don't know what their thoughts are. But I still say I hope it gets done."
The sides are attempting to iron out several issues, including specific contract value and some type of no-trade clause, which Hardy would like after having been with three teams since 2009. The Orioles haven't given a full no-trade clause to a player since Melvin Mora in 2006, but Nick Markakis (eight clubs) and Brian Roberts (12 clubs in 2011, full protection in 2012) have limited clauses built into their extensions.
"Yes, I'd like [some] no-trade. I know how they have done it in the past with Markakis and Brian Roberts. It's not a whole lot of teams," Hardy said. "Yeah, that's a big part of it. Money a little bit. The fact I'd know where I'd be somewhere for a little while. I think there are a lot of things that play a factor. If something doesn't get done, then I would have that choice in the offseason to make something like that happen."
If the Orioles can't agree to an extension soon, they'll have to consider dealing Hardy by the nonwaiver trade deadline at the end of July, since he is their best trade chip and likely would not clear waivers. Hardy, 28, is batting .277 with 13 homers and 33 RBIs and has made just two errors in 62 games this season.
Another option would be to hold on to Hardy, offer him arbitration at the end of the year and get two high draft picks if he signs elsewhere as a free agent. Although the club does not characterize its negotiations with players, both sides seem to consider extending Hardy the best option.
Despite what likely will be the Orioles' 14th consecutive losing season, Hardy said he believes the team has talent and likes the direction taken by manager Buck Showalter, president of baseball operations Andy MacPhail and owner Peter Angelos.
"I see a pretty good lineup. I see a lot of pieces, like [Matt] Wieters, Adam Jones, Markakis. If Brian Roberts can stay healthy, that's five pretty good guys that are filling up the field," Hardy said. "The pitchers, I feel like you see potential. Everyone sees potential. They are young, and another year under their belts will do wonders. … And I do believe Andy MacPhail, Buck and Peter are doing everything they possibly can to make this a winning team. That's something I have to believe and go from there."
If Hardy signs a three-year deal, he likely would be a bridge to top prospect Manny Machado, who is 19 and playing at High-A Frederick. It's something Hardy has done in the past. In Milwaukee, he was the incumbent while shortstop Alcides Escobar was considered one of the better prospects in baseball.
Hardy said what's most important is knowing where he'll be playing for the next couple of seasons.
"This sport has just been that way: You never really know what is going on," Hardy said. "It's tough. That is probably the toughest thing for me in this sport. That's why I feel like I'd like to be somewhere for a while."
Guerrero DL possibility
Vladimir Guerrero, who has been diagnosed with a cracked bone in his right hand, missed his second consecutive game Friday, making a trip to the 15-day disabled list more likely.
Guerrero took early batting practice Friday, and it "did not go well," Showalter said. "We had to not put him in the lineup, obviously. … It becomes a decision now [on] how long we can or will wait."
Guerrero was hit by a pitch from the Boston Red Sox's Kyle Weiland in the fifth inning Sunday in Boston and left the game. Initial X-rays were negative, but more tests Thursday revealed the crack in a bone just below his wrist.
"Guys have played with it, if there's not a possibility of hurting it more," Showalter said. "It's a matter of when the discomfort goes away, if it does."
Guerrero might undergo more tests, and, if it looks as if he will not be available to play for another few days, he likely would be placed on the DL. Without him, the Orioles had a two-man bench Friday.
Showalter on suspensions
Showalter was back in the dugout Friday after a one-game automatic suspension Thursday stemming from Sunday's ejection of Orioles left-hander Michael Gonzalez, who threw behind Boston's David Ortiz after both sides had been warned.
Red Sox manager Terry Francona was not suspended, however, even though he was ejected from that game when his starter, Weiland, hit Guerrero. Major League Baseball later ruled Weiland was not intentionally throwing at Guerrero, so the automatic suspension of Francona was lifted.
Showalter initially didn't want to comment on the situation, but eventually said: "Good for Terry, saved him some money. … Nobody ever said baseball is fair. It's pretty obvious we took the short end of it."
Around the horn
Markakis' third-inning single against Josh Tomlin on Friday was his 1,000th career hit. He received a standing ovation from the Camden Yards crowd. … In Guerrero's absence, Wieters has batted fourth each of the past two days, but Showalter wouldn't commit to the young catcher as the primary cleanup hitter, saying, "It could move around a little bit." … Right-hander Alfredo Simon will be placed on the restricted list Sunday when he goes to the Dominican to deal with legal matters, so the Orioles will be able to temporarily add another player to the 25-man roster. … Monday's Orioles starter is still listed as to be announced. … Lefty Zach Britton, who was demoted to Double-A Bowie last weekend, made his first minor league start Friday. He allowed two hits, including a solo homer, and one run while striking out two in three innings against Richmond. Six of the nine outs were groundouts. Britton, who in part was demoted to keep his innings in check during his rookie year, is expected to be back with the Orioles at the end of the month.
Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Zrebiec contributed to this article.
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