Baltimore Orioles have been handed a timely boost ahead of their American League Championship Series after shortstop J. J. Hardy signed a new three-year $40 million deal with the option for a 2018 extension.
Hardy and the O’s began contract negotiations at the start of the season but it was feared after such little progress the two-time Gold Glove winner would leave as a free agent in the offseason.
But manager Buck Showalter has got his man and been given a morale lift as the Orioles compete with the Royals to earn the right to contest the World Series.
“I knew that I liked it here. I believe that Dan, Duck, the Angelos family – they’re all going to continue doing everything they possibly can to make this organisation better and bottom line, it comes down to winning and I think we’ve got a good thing here.”
Hardy joined the Orioles from the Minnesota Twins in December 2010 and he shot to stardom after being awarded the Gold Glove in 2012 and 2013 along with the Silver Slugger award in 2013. The 32-year-old lined up for 141 regular season games in 2014 at shortstop with a batting average of .268.
The shortstop was one of the names touted as a possible replacement at the Yankees for the retiring Derek Jeter, but that connection has ended after Hardy committed his future to the O's.
According to MLB.com, Hardy was the Orioles top priority to get signed and the 32-year-old is seen as an influential figure in the infield.
The Orioles host the Royals at Camden Yards tonight for Game 1 of the ALCS which sees a match up of pitching aces James Shields and Chris Tillman.
When the two sides faced each other in the regular season Kansas City edged the contests, winning four of their seven games and outscoring Baltimore 26-18.
While the Series will primarily be the Royals speed versus the Orioles power – Royals stole the most bases in the AL and the Orioles hit the most homers – both side possess destructive bullpens which have fuelled their postseason surges.
Neither side has participated in a World Series for the past three decades. The Royals last contested the Fall classic in 1985 when they defeated the St Louis Cardinals 4-3 while the Orioles stretch back to 1983 when they beat Philadelphia Phillies 4-1.
San Francisco Giants and St Louis Cardinals face off in the National League Championship Series and will provide the World Series opponent for the winner of the Royals-Orioles clash.