The Baltimore Orioles have made several under the radar big moves over the past decade and a half, but one of those that has turned out to be gold was the acquisition of shortstop JJ Hardy. The All Star shortstop is entering his free agent year, and whether or not he signs an extension with the Orioles, this is a big year for Hardy.
Baltimore acquired Hardy via trade in December of 2010, and signed him to a three year deal in the summer of 2011 to keep him in Baltimore through the 2014 season. Ever since the Orioles acquired him he has been a keystone, both defensively and in the lineup.
Hardy has been one of the premier shortstops in the game over the past three seasons as he has hit 22 or more home runs in each of his three seasons in Baltimore and is the only shortstop to have at least 20 home runs in each of the past three seasons. He is just the 9th shortstop in MLB history to have three or more seasons with 25 or more home runs and his 52 homers over the 2011-2012 seasons led all MLB shortstops.
He is not just a weapon at the plate. Hardy has won back-to-back AL Gold Gloves at shortstop and is currently fourth all-time among full time shortstops with a .982 fielding percentage.
2013 was quite a year for the 31 year old as he hit .263 with 25 home runs, 76 RBI, 27 doubles and earned the starting shortstop nod in the All Star Game, won the AL Gold Glove, and also garnered the Silver Slugger Award.
There were a lot of talks this offseason on if the Orioles would attempt to sign him to an extension prior to this season, and although there were some talks, it never really advanced into anything serious. It is well known that the Orioles would like to keep Hardy and that feeling seems to be mutual.
In the interview, Hardy is asked whether he would be open to an extension with the Orioles and he responded with:
"I've said it from day one, I like playing here, I like the guys & coaching staff. I love playing in Baltimore. It's definitely something I'm open to, and we'll see what happens."
He has made it no secret that he would like to play the rest of his career in Charm City, but it is a business and of course, as he should, he will do what is best for him and his family.
Despite the knock on him prior to arriving to Baltimore of being an injury prone player. Hardy has remained pretty healthy in his three year stint thus far as he has played in at least 129 games in each of the three years and 158 or more in each of the past two seasons.
When asked why he has blossomed here in Baltimore he said:"Its a comfort level thing,Ive felt comfortable..it allows me to be myself"
There is no doubt that if Hardy hits the free agent market, he will be a hot commodity as it is rare to find a shortstop that is both an offensive and defensive weapon.
2014 will be a big year for Hardy, and only time will tell if it will be his last in Baltimore, but one thing is for certain, the Camden Yards faithful will enjoy watching him swing the bat and flash the leather at shortstop this season.
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