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 [Orioles 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 being with three teams since 2009. The Orioles haven't given a full no-trade clause to a player since Melvin Mora in 2006, but both 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 he 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 as 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 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."