Update: Hardy agrees to three-year extension with Orioles

1:34pm: According to Roch Kubatko, Hardy and the Orioles have agreed to a three-year extension worth $40M or so. Scratch him of the list.

12:00pm: Via Dan Martin: Orioles shortstop and impending free agent J.J. Hardy said he will listen to the Yankees if they come calling this offseason. “It’s not something I can look into the future and see what’s going to happen. I’ve just got to focus on helping our team right now and obviously the playoff this year. But if it comes to it, I’ll have to think about it more,” he said. “This is my fourth year here and I feel like this organization, we’re going in the right direction. It’s a good group of guys here. It’s something if they came to me, I would listen, also.”

Hardy, 32, hit .268/.309/.372 (90 wRC+) with nine homers in 141 games this year while missing time with lower back problems. He hit 20+ homers every year from 2011-13 as well as in 2007-08, plus he’s a very good defender despite an unconventional over-the-top throwing motion that makes you wonder if the ball will make it to first base on the fly. There will be a bunch of quality shortstops on the market this winter and Hardy is probably the best two-way player, though the back trouble dates back to last year and that’s kinda scary. Jhonny Peralta signed a four-year, $52M contract last winter and I suspect Hardy will get something similar even though he’ll cost a draft pick to sign.

Mailbag: A-Rod, Profar, Hardy

Only three questions this week, but they’re good ones. Use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send us anything throughout the week, mailbag questions or otherwise.

(Ronald Martinez/Getty)
(Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Many people asked: What happens with regards to the luxury tax if Alex Rodriguez retires or his contract is voided or he agrees to a buyout?

The answer to all three of those situations is: I have no idea. I imagine the Yankees would be off the hook completely if he voluntarily retired (which he would never do) or they were able to void the contract (which is extremely unlikely). Even if doctors said A-Rod was physically unable to play, he still wouldn’t retire. He’d just force the team to stick him on the 60-day DL every year and keep collecting his money, like Albert Belle did with the Orioles back in the day. That’s what I would do. The Yankees would collect insurance money in that case, but I don’t think it would prevent his salary from counting against the luxury tax. I don’t know that for sure though.

Until we have definitive word otherwise, I assume Alex and his entire $27.5M luxury tax hit will be on the books for the next five years. If they manage to work something out that changes his luxury tax hit, great. I’m not counting on it.

(Layne Murdoch/Getty)
(Layne Murdoch/Getty)

Anonymous asks: Hypothetical situation: if the Yankees had Jurickson Profar and you were the GM, would you hold him back in the minors, move Derek Jeter to a new position (or DH), or maybe something else entirely? This is obviously not a problem for the Yankees now, but it’s fun to play what-if.

Profar, 20 next month, is the best prospect in all of baseball. He hit .281/.368/.452 (127 wRC+) with 14 homers and 16 steals in 126 Double-A games last year, then made his big league debut in September. He’s truly elite, a great-defending shortstop who hits for average and power and can run. Profar is Hanley Ramirez — the good version with the Marlins from back in the day — with better defense.

If he was Yankees property and I was calling the shots, I’m pretty sure I would send Profar to Triple-A to begin 2013. It would be incredibly tempting to run him out there everyday if Jeter’s ankle kept him on the shelf early in the season, however. Profar would be the obvious long-term solution at shortstop once the Cap’n retires, and I would try to push Jeter to third base or DH in 2014 (assuming he exercises his player option) to make it happen.

Daniel asks: Any chance of acquiring J.J. Hardy from Baltimore? I can see them sticking with him this year, but would they really block Machado two straight years? I don’t think so and Hardy supposedly only plays shortstop.

Hardy, 30, hit .238/.282/.389 (78 wRC+) last season after putting together a .269/.310/.491 (113 wRC+) line with 30 homers a year ago. Given the dearth of quality shortstops, I totally would have traded Hardy this winter and handed Machado the shortstop job if I was the Orioles. Instead, Machado will play third base in 2013.

Baltimore owes Hardy $7M in both 2013 and 2014, so he’s very reasonably priced given his great defense and power production. He’d be a great fit for the Yankees if the ankle forces Jeter off shortstop full-time, but I have a very hard time seeing the Bombers and Orioles getting together for a trade. Especially if the O’s prove last year was no fluke and remain competitive. Hardy is too expensive to be a utility man and too good defensively to DH, but he’d be a great Jeter replacement.

Don’t overlook these under-the-radar Twins

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Like every other team in the postseason, the Twins are only going to go as far as their best players take them. Francisco Liriano needs to match the opposing team’s ace pitch-for-pitch, Joe Mauer needs to take advantage of whatever opportunities he’s given, and Jim Thome has to be that second offensive force. It’s imperative that those three do their part, but like everyone else the Twins are also going to need contributions from other players as well.

The Yankees certainly benefited from some unexpected contributions during last season’s title run, whether it be Damaso Marte‘s shutdown relief work or Jerry Hairston spot starting in rightfield, so we know how important complimentary players can be. Here’s a few names that they shouldn’t overlook when preparing for the ALDS, because if they do, chances are they’ll regret it…

Delmon Young

The Twins’ lineup certainly features plenty of dangerous lefty bats, but the Yanks are going to be able to counter that somewhat with CC Sabathia in Game One and (more than likely) Andy Pettitte in Game Two. Minnesota hasn’t had too many righthanded power bats beyond the good, but not holy crap good Michael Cuddyer to help balance out their lineup over the years, but now they have that extra power righty in Young.

A former first overall pick who didn’t turn 25 until just three weeks ago, Young finally started to deliver on his immense promise this season, hitting .298/.333/.493 with career bests in wOBA (.352), homers (21), doubles (46), and strikeout rate (14.2%). He’s done a huge chunk of his damage against lefthanded pitchers, posting a .390 wOBA against them in 2010 and .352 for his career. Young will still expand the zone and have poor at-bats on occasion, but he’s growing into some more power and mistake pitches are leaving the yard more often than ever before. Sabathia and Pettitte are going to have to make sure they’re careful with Minnesota’s best righthanded threat.

Brian Fuentes

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

I’m sure at least some of you snickered when you read Fuentes’ name, because we all remember him being pretty shaky in the closer’s role over the last two seasons or so. Well, Fuentes isn’t a closer now, instead shifted to a role that’s much more suited to his skill set: lefty specialist. Fuentes crushed lefthanded batters this season, holding them to a .128/.222/.149 batting line and just a single extra base hit. Over the last three years, his dinosaur arm delivery limited lefties to a .196/.258/.234 line, and he’s surrendered just two (!!!) extra base hits to same-side batters since 2007 and one homerun since 2006.

Laugh at him for his failures as a closer or for Alex Rodriguez‘s game-tying blast in last year’s ALCS, but the guy is shutdown lefthander that will create some matchup havoc late in games. Marcus Thames, and even … gulp … Austin Kearns are going to have to pull their weight against Fuentes this series.

Danny Valencia & J.J. Hardy

Young isn’t the only righthanded bat worth worrying about, the Twins new left side of the infield improved their team immensely in that area as well. Hardy, acquired from the Brewers in the offseason, brings what amounts to a league average bat from the shortstop position, an upgrade over what Orlando Cabrera gave them last season. The defensive improvement is considerable as well.

Valencia, the second half rookie sensation, looks like Alex Rodriguez compared to the dreck Minnesota has run out at the hot corner over the last few seasons. He brings a .351 wOBA from the right side, and like Young he murders lefthanded pitching (.424 wOBA this year). Compare that to Brendan Harris, who (mostly) started at third last year and was lucky to get his slugging percentage over .351, forget wOBA. Automatic outs like Harris, Nick Punto, and Carlos Gomez are nowhere to be found this year, so Yankee pitchers are going to have to be much more careful once they get past the heart of the order.