On Friday the Twins and Brewers completed a trade that sent Carlos Gomez to the land of cheese, and JJ Hardy to the place with the new stadium that nonsensically has no roof despite the local climates. On the surface, the move is the very definition of two teams selling low. Both players had seasons with the bat that were pretty horrific from the conventional standpoint. But let's take a little bit of a closer look and see if this is the case, shall we?
JJ Hardy is primarily known as a gloveman, but in recent years he's shown himself to be more than readily proficient with the stick. His 2009 hitting line is nothing to be proud of, but the idea that Hardy simply forgot what he was doing at the plate is too simplistic. First and foremost, even after his abysmal season, Hardy still boasts a career wOBA of .325.This isn't superb by any stretch of the imagination, but for a shortstop it's quite good at least by 2009 standards and certainly shows how Hardy isn't a total lost cause at the dish. Moreover, Hardy's lack of performance at the plate, at least from a batting average standpoint, was more likely fueled by a precipitous drop in his BABIP. If there is one thing to be concerned about, though, it was a similar drop in his LD%, indicating an inability to drive the ball.
Nevertheless, Hardy still boasts a good batting eye and since he doesn't turn 28 until August of 2010, it's reasonable to call 2009 "uncharacteristic" rather than claim it is part of a disturbing trend. Plus, Hardy's real value is with the leather. He plays to a superb 11.5 UZR/150 in his career (last season: 8.8). It was this proficiency with the glove that makes Hardy an especially worthwhile and productive member of a team. In fact, the shortstop still boasted a positive WAR despite his meager hitting. Many teams would probably covet such a slick fielding SS (oh hai, Drew), and if Hardy can rebound to anywhere close to his 2007 and 2008 numbers with the bat, the Twins could be looking mighty fine indeed at SS. At the very least, Hardy boasts such redeeming qualities as "not being Orlando Cabrera."
On the other hand, there's Carlos Gomez, the guy who was supposed to be the sparkplug for the Twins offense and was also considered an integral part of the Johan Santana trade. Needless to say, I don't think this is exactly what the Twins had in mind as Gomez was anything but productive at the dish in 2009, hitting for an abysmal average, and failing to get on base with alarming regularity. Unlike Hardy, Gomez' wOBA is nothing to write home about, and if he is going to be a productive run scorer for the Brewers, his ability to get on base is going to have to markedly change for the better. Like Hardy though, the outfielder's poor batting average was made worse by a drastic drop in his BABIP, so some better luck might make his basic statistics look prettier in 2010. Gomez also drives the ball very well, which with his speed lends itself very well to XBH and potential trips to home with Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder in the same lineup. Gomez also boasts a superb UZR/150, likely the result of his incredible wheels. Like his trade counterpart, his defense makes him slightly more valuable than a replacement player, but he has a lot of improving to do with the stick before he becomes a true impact player.
So this move definitely involved two teams selling low, but it appears that in both cases, the peripheral statistics indicate a potential for future performance that could yield a very nice reward. In my opinion, this is more likely to manifest itself with Hardy than with Gomez, but what do you think? Did one team vastly outsmart the other? And how are Twins fans likely to react once they realize they have to probably start Delmon Young in the OF again ?
(Image courtesy of Flickr user ryan.kane)