Baltimore Orioles: Five Reasons Extension of J.J. Hardy Is a Good Move

Josh Sadlock@@JoshSadlockCorrespondent IIIJuly 19, 2011

Baltimore Orioles: Five Reasons Extension of J.J. Hardy Is a Good Move

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    The Baltimore Orioles signed shortstop J.J. Hardy to a three-year, $22-million extension this weekend. 

    The deal ends speculation that Hardy would be traded by the Orioles to a contender at the deadline. 

    Hardy is currently hitting .281 with 14 home runs and 37 RBI and has given the team much-needed production out of the leadoff spot with Brian Roberts injured. 

    The Hardy signing is a good move for the Orioles.  Here are five reasons why.

5. Less Pressure on Manny Machado

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    Expectations are high for the Orioles' 2010 first-round pick, and Baseball America rates him a Top-20 prospect. 

    However, Machado was drafted out of high school.  High-schoolers often need more time to develop and adjust to professional pitching.

    Keeping J.J. Hardy for at least the next three seasons gives the Orioles a viable shortstop, something they have been searching for since Cal Ripken, Jr. moved to third. 

    The presence of Hardy should allow the Orioles to keep Machado in the minors until he is truly ready.

4. Premium Power from the Shortstop Position

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    J.J. Hardy's 14 home runs rank third in the league among shortstops, but he has hit them in only 260 at-bats. 

    The leaders—Troy Tulowitzki and Asdrubal Cabrera—have hit 17 bombs in 354 and 384 at-bats respectively. 

    It is difficult to find a short stop who can hit for power, but Hardy is one of the few in the league.  With the Brewers, he had seasons of 26 and 24 home runs. 

    The fact that he is providing this power out of the leadoff spot makes him even more valuable.

3. Brian Roberts' Future Is in Doubt

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    Brian Roberts has had problems with concussions over the last two years. 

    Head injuries are a tricky brand.  Some players never recover, and some suffer recurring concussions. 

    Roberts was once one of the premier leadoff hitters in the game, but he may never get back to that level. 

    The Orioles need a leadoff hitter, and Robert Andino, who has filled in well at second base, looks more like a number nine hitter than a leadoff hitter. 

    J.J. Hardy gives the Orioles a capable replacement for Brian Roberts.

2. Hardy Is over His Nagging Injuries

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    With the Brewers, Hardy was an All-Star in 2007, but he suffered from nagging injuries in 2009 and 2010. 

    His production suffered, but now Hardy appears to be healthy and back at his All-Star level of play.  His two seasons of poor production allowed the Orioles to get him at a cheaper price.

1. Rebuilding Process Could Be Coming to an End

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    Orioles management must be well aware of the success of both the Pirates and Nationals this year. 

    Both franchises went through a lengthy rebuilding process.  J.J. Hardy could have commanded a good price on the trade market. 

    Orioles fans have to believe that if the team did not believe the rebuilding process was almost over, management would have found a willing buyer. 

    The Orioles offense is full of potential with Hardy, Jones, Markakis, and Wieters.  Andy MacPhail and the powers that be must believe that this team can be a winner within three years, otherwise Hardy would have been traded. 

    The Orioles are left to wait on their young pitchers to mature, but they have locked up a key cog for their offense in Hardy.