Hardy prefers to stay with O's

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
11:00
AM ET
SARASOTA, Fla. -- As best we can tell, the Orioles haven't signed any former or future All-Stars in the past 15 minutes. But here's a name to keep in mind, in case they get the urge to spend any more of Peter Angelos' money:

J.J. Hardy.

[+] EnlargeJ.J. Hardy
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarJ.J. Hardy is entering what could be his fourth and final season as the Orioles' shortstop.
This will be Hardy's fourth season as the Orioles' shortstop. It also could be his last.

He's on the final season of a three-year, $22.5 million contract. The Baltimore Sun reported this week that the Orioles have contacted his agent, Craig Landis, to let them know they're interested in talking about an extension. And Hardy told ESPN.com on Monday morning that he planned to meet with his agent in the next 24 hours to discuss where they go from here.

"I don't know how that will all play out," Hardy said. "We'll see. I'm actually going to meet with my agent. And we're going to talk a little bit about what could happen. And he'll kind of fill me in … because I don't really know much.

"We've talked about all the different options, about what could happen -- other possible teams that might be looking for shortstops. There's so much that goes into it. And I'm not all caught up to speed."

Those teams could include the Dodgers (depending on their contract talks with Hanley Ramirez and on just-signed Cuban shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena), the Phillies (depending on whether Jimmy Rollins vests his 2015 option) and the Indians (depending on the progress of top prospect Francisco Lindor). And, of course, there are the Yankees -- of whom Hardy quipped: "I heard their shortstop's retiring or something."

But Hardy, who turns 32 in August, has made it clear that if the stars and dollar signs line up right, he'd prefer to stay right where he is -- in Baltimore.

"I'll say, and I've said it a lot, that I've really enjoyed my time here," he said. "I like playing here. I like the guys. I like the manager. I like the coaches. There are a lot of things that make me happy. So I definitely like it here. But we'll see what happens."

Hardy and outfielder Nick Markakis are the two most prominent members of the Orioles' position-player core who could be free agents next winter. And two Scott Boras clients, catcher Matt Wieters and first baseman Chris Davis, are two years away. So Hardy understands why people keep saying and writing why the Orioles' window to win is now.

"When you look at it like that, you can see it how you want," Hardy said. "But they've got Manny [Machado] for another five, six years. The pitchers are young, so they'll be around. … So I guess you could think that window with these guys in this clubhouse right now could be closing. But it doesn't necessarily mean the window is closing for the whole organization."

Whether it's closing or opening, though, the Orioles have had themselves about as action-packed a first week of spring training as any team in history -- agreeing to terms with Ubaldo Jimenez, Korean ace Suk-min Yoon and now Nelson Cruz.

After a winter so quiet that it won them our not-so-coveted Most Unimproved Team in the American League award, they've sure picked up the pace since they arrived in Sarasota. And you could argue that by doing it this way, they've energized their clubhouse even more than if they'd signed all these guys two months ago.

"Maybe that was their strategy," Hardy deadpanned. "If it was, they definitely added excitement. Whether that was what they had in mind, or that was their plan, it's worked. I'll say that. They're playing it out brilliantly."

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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