Orioles, J.J. Hardy agree on deal

BALTIMORE -- The Baltimore Orioles and shortstop J.J. Hardy agreed to a three-year contract Saturday, a deal that almost certainly assures he won't be going anywhere before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.

"That's a big part of the whole contract, that I know I'm going to be here for three years," Hardy said before the Orioles faced Cleveland on Saturday night.

The deal cannot be finalized until Hardy passes a physical. He will reportedly receive around $22 million, and the contract includes a partial no-trade clause.

"I'm very supportive of it," manager Buck Showalter said. "I hope it happens."

Hardy came to the Orioles last December in a trade with the Minnesota Twins, where he spent one season after a five-year run with Milwaukee. The pending deal means he won't have to sweat out the July 31 trade deadline.

"There's a lot of things I don't have to worry about now," he said. "It's definitely a relief, a big weight off my shoulders. I can just worry about playing baseball now."

The 28-year-old Hardy hit .275 with 13 homers and 33 RBIs through Friday. He reached base in 42 of his past 47 games, and has proven to be a valuable replacement for injured Brian Roberts in the leadoff spot.

Hardy has also been exceptional in the field. He has only two errors in 63 games and ranks first in majors among shortstops with a .994 fielding percentage.

"Obviously, J.J. is playing shortstop at a very high level," Showalter said.

Hardy was to become a free agent after this season, but had no desire to make it four teams over four years.

"I like all the guys in this clubhouse. I like the coaching staff," he said. "I just think overall I've had a lot of fun here, and there's been years I didn't have a lot of fun playing. That's a big thing for me, to have fun, and all these guys allow me to do that."

Making a commitment to the Orioles means playing for a last-place team headed for its 14th consecutive losing season. Baltimore started the day mired in a nine-game losing streak and with one win in its past 15 games.

"Right now it's not going that well, but there is some potential and I feel like this team is a lot better than what we've been doing the last couple weeks," Hardy said. "I like challenges as well as being competitive. I feel like it's definitely a big challenge to turn this whole organization around, and if I can help and be a part of that, great."

Right fielder Nick Markakis, who is signed through 2014, believes the agreement with Hardy proves the franchise is committed to winning.

"It definitely means a lot to the club, the organization and most of all, the fans. They've been here longer than I have and all the guys in this clubhouse. They deserve it more than anything," Markakis said. "We're working, we're trying to climb that mountain. We're on our way. It's only a matter of time."