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J.J. Hardy contract: Orioles hoping to work out extension with shortstop

The Orioles are hoping to lock up a core of Hardy, Matt Wieters and Chris Davis to remain along young studs like Manny Machado.

Jim Rogash

Baltimore Orioles Executive Vice President Dan Duquette said Saturday that the team is planning on talking to shortstop J.J. Hardy about a long-term contract extension before the beginning of the season, reports Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports.

Hardy, 31, will be eligible for free agency following the 2014 season if he does not sign a new contract. It's difficult to guess where he might settle on the value of a deal, though the plight of Stephen Drew in free agency may not be helping his case to sign a big contract. Hardy is currently working on a three-year, $22.25 million deal he signed with the Orioles prior to 2011.

It's also important to remember that the Orioles have several key players they are hoping to re-sign. Both catcher Matt Wieters and first baseman Chris Davis will be free agents in two years and Baltimore has had ongoing discussions to extend both of them. Davis in particular is a priority after injecting himself into the MVP discussion last year with a league-leading 53 home runs.

Hardy has been a steady defensive player at shortstop since first breaking into the majors with the Brewers in 2005. He has won the Gold Glove award each of the past two years with Baltimore and won his first Silver Slugger last year as he hit .263/.306/.433 with 25 home runs. He hit a career-high 30 homers in 2011 and has eclipsed 20 long balls five times in his career, including each of the past three seasons.

Were Hardy to sign on for additional years, it could spell the end of any chances Manny Machado may have of moving back to shortstop. Such a move was already questionable, but as long as Hardy is in town Machado will definitely stay at third base. He has excelled at the hot corner, becoming one of the best defensive players in the game at just 21 years old.

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