The Hardy Trade Was Bad, But Not Because Of Carlos Gomez | Disciples of Uecker

Disciples of Uecker

We'd like to go to the Playoffs, that would be cool.

One big subject on the mind of Brewers fans and across the Brewers blogosphere lately has been Carlos Gomez, both at Bernie’s Crew and at Brew Crew Ball. There’s no doubt that Gomez has been disappointing this year: he’s posted a paltry line of .236/.289/.363. Even wOBA, which includes the value of his 10 SB to only 2 CS, only has him a .297. Given that wOBA is on the same scale as OBP, that’s simply not good.

All in all, that’s come out to a meager 0.4 wins above replacement in 233 plate appearances, which comes out to a sub-average 1.0 WAR over a full season of 600 plate appearances. That’s an incredibly disappointing return for an asset like Hardy, who, despite a down season, still was one of the best defensive shortstops around and had shown the ability to hit with power in the past, something that is incredibly rare at the position.

As Jim Breen mentions in the Bernie’s Crew post, the Red Sox reportedly offered Michael Bowden for J.J. Hardy. (Note: Any time this trade is mentioned, I have to point out this tweet from Jonah Keri). Bowden was part of a wave of Red Sox arms making noise around baseball, but was he really that good? In 2009 in AAA, Bowden was very unimpressive. Yes, he posted a 3.52 ERA, but nearly every peripheral number after that suggests he just wasn’t that good. His 6.2% HR/FB rate accounts for a half-decent FIP of 4.18. When it comes down to it, though I just don’t see a guy who posts a K rate of 6.2 with a BB rate of 3.3 (that’s a K/BB below 2.0) making a good or even competent starter in the major leagues. He’s been turned into a reliever, but given the low K rates, I’m not even convinced he can succeed in that role.

Breen suggests that the fact that Bowden was offered means that the Brewers likely had some solid offers on the table, in terms of pitching prospects. To me, what it suggests is that the market for J.J. Hardy was extremely low. How else could a player like Hardy, who despite the worst season of his life in 2009 had posted a remarkable 10.7 WAR from 2007-2009, only bring in mediocre pitching prospects or projects like Gomez? Hardy was just coming off being demoted to AAA. Even though other teams may have understood that he is a better player than he was in 2009, they had no reason to offer anything even approaching fair value for him. Demoting Hardy to AAA was just like shouting to the rest of the baseball world that you believe that he’s done; it’s a complete value killer.

Meanwhile, Alcides Escobar was climbing the organizational ladder, and his stock really couldn’t have been higher. By all accounts, he was the best fielding shortstop in minor league baseball and potentially in the MLB as well. His bat wasn’t great, but he showed decent contact skills in the minors and hit .298/.351/.411 with Nashville in 2009. This was probably the peak of Escobar’s value – now, and rather predictably, given the .240/.267/.300 minor league equivalency for that AAA line, Escobar is one of the worst hitting shortstops in the NL, and although his defense has shown flashes, there’s definitely no proof that it is better than J.J. Hardy’s.

It’s very easy for me to say it now, and given that this blog didn’t exist last year, it may just seem like hindsight is 20-20, but I had been saying this throughout the 2009 offseason that the proper course of action for the Brewers would be to trade Alcides Escobar, and not J.J. Hardy. Escobar’s value was at it’s peak, and Hardy would be under team control for an additional year due to his demotion to AAA and probably wouldn’t hit as poorly in 2010 as he did in 2009 – much of his issues were due to a .260 BABIP.

Turns out Hardy is still struggling at the plate – only a .286 wOBA with the Twins, which is only slightly better than Escobar’s .277. The park factors aren’t completely set in Minnesota, and that might be part of the issue, but still, it doesn’t look like Hardy’s power has returned. Still, even if you make the questionable assumption that Escobar’s defense is just as good as Hardy’s, you have essentially the same player. Escobar has a higher chance of breakout, and Hardy is more expensive, but what about the possible trade return for Esocbar, who was the #19 prospect according to Baseball America prior to 2009 and #12 before 2010? According to Victor Wang’s prospect value research, a #11-#25 prospect was worth about $25.1 million in surplus value. That can buy roughly 6-8 WAR, meaning that Gomez, a player whose best-case WAR is probably about 3.0, would be far less than any package likely offered for Escobar.

Do the Brewers bring in a solid SP? Do they shore up the farm system? Obviously, this is just a big game of “what if.” The point, though, is that the problem with the Hardy trade isn’t so much the return. The issue is that you’re simply not going to get fair value for a player when you trade him at their absolute worst. See Alex Rios, who was traded for literally nothing and now is already at 3.2 WAR with the White Sox. The Brewers doomed themselves from the moment that Hardy was demoted, and that’s why we’re stuck with a weak hitting, speedy center fielder and a shortstop who has looked utterly lost at the plate in the big leagues.

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Tell us what do you think.

  1. Anonymous says: July 19, 2010

    It should also be noted that the JJ Hardy for Michael Bowden rumors concerned talked between the Brewers and Red Sox that took place *during* the 2009 season, and not during the offseason. One can criticize Melvin for not trading Hardy sooner than the offseason (or for trading him too early *in* the offseason), but nobody should act like the Bowden and Gomez trade scenarios were contemporary and that Melvin just preferred the latter.

    As I recall, the only other confirmed offer was Hardy for Matt Capps…

    • Jack Moore says: July 19, 2010

      Definitely a good point.

      I was (and still am) a big Matt Capps fan, but it says a lot about Hardy’s value that the only confirmed offer was for a guy that was later non-tendered.

  2. Jaymes says: July 19, 2010

    The financial implications of the Hardy trade were also important, as swapping out the salaries of Hardy (and subsequently Mike Cameron after they acquired Gomez) saved the team quite a bit of payroll. That money was ultimately spent on the likes of Randy Wolf, LaTroy Hawkins, and Gregg Zaun, which probably only makes that aspect of the deal look worse.

    Definitely a deal that I think Melvin would like to hit the “reset” button on, but at least the deal has been equally sucky for both sides.

  3. Tanner says: July 20, 2010

    I was saying all last season that the right move was to trade Escobar, not Hardy. I had the same reasoning. Escobar’s trade value was at it’s peak and Hardy’s was at it’s bottom. You’re correct in saying Hardy’s power hasn’t returned but you fail to mention that he’s had an injured wrist for much of this season and he’s not playing in the bandbox that is Miller Park anymore. Even so, his numbers, both offensive and defensive, are still better than Escobar’s. I was definitely in the vast minority in this view but I see nothing this season that would change my opinion. Having said that, I feel it’s the perfect time to trade Corey Hart. His value will never be higher and they should get whatever they possibly can for him immediately.

  4. Rob says: July 21, 2010

    Ahhh, the heady days of 2008 when Salome, Gamel, LaPorta and Escobar were tearing up Hunstville. I really want to know what was going on in Hunstville that year where everyone hit like they were on the cusp of stardom.

  5. Joe B says: July 23, 2010

    Carlos Gomez is one of the best defensive CFers in the game, Hardy is one of the best defensive SS’s in the game. Gomez wOBA .297, Hardy’s .286? Seems pretty fair

  6. Tom says: July 23, 2010

    I understand the complaints about Escobar, but how many defensive first shortstops put up amazing rookie campaigns? I think it’s a little early to be undermining what Escobar can do for the club in the long run. He’s still learning, he’s only 23.

    I think we definitely made the right move in choosing to move Hardy, he has looked equally as lost at the plate this year, but it wasn’t a good move for Gomez.

    I think expectations were far too high for our rookie SS this season, but the experience can only make him a better player in the long run. Just ask the Padres what it’s like to trade a defensive shortstop like Ozzie Smith for an offense first one in Templeton. Given each player has issues with management, but still, who do you think they would have wanted in the long run?

  7. Mike says: July 23, 2010

    The one item missing from the article was that the Brewers could have traded Hardy to the Pirates for Doumit who could have easily been flipped for a higher caliber player than Gomez. The Brewers obviously said no. Does anyone remember the other player that the Pirates offered?

    • Mike says: July 23, 2010

      The previous post answered my question (Capps). You guys are too fast. :)

  8. Dan says: July 23, 2010

    Wouldn’t say the trade has been a total bust for the Twins… Hardy hasn’t provided the pop from a couple years ago, but has been defensively, and his bat is coming around. Take away a 10 game stretch right after his wrist injury where he wasn’t fully healed yet and he’s hitting around .280 for the year. It also allowed Minnesota to move Punto into the super-utility role he belongs in and provided a younger, similarly priced option (with far more upside and better defense) to re-signing Orlando Cabrera.

  9. Matt says: July 23, 2010

    JJ Hardy being one of the best defensive shortstops in the game is an absolute joke. Just because he does not make a lot of errors does not mean he is one of the best shortstops. Hardy has terrible range and Escobar was a termendous upgrade in that aspect which has contributed to a few of his errors. Balls that he got to and had mis throw’s to first, Hardy would have never touched meaning Escobar gets the error while Hardy never even had a chance to make the play. My second point would be length of control. You are suggesting the Brewers trade Escobar who the Brewers have for the next 5 years, and keep Hardy for another two years – all the while putting up with his problems at the plate – and pay a hefty salary and not have anyone to replace him in two years?? If that had happened you would probably be writing this article in two years talking about how terrible it was to trade away a prospect without a long term plan. While I do agree with the fact that Brewers fans wanted more from Hardy than a CF with offensive issues, there isn’t a big market for anyone that is coming off the worst year of their career.

  10. Lamar says: July 23, 2010

    What I think everyone fails to see how the Hardy/Gomez trade worked in favor of the Brewers. Not only did it allow them to add payroll it gave them the flexibility to sign other FA’s. If they traded Escobar they would never have been able to acquire Wolf, Hawkins and Zaun. Unfortunately while the Brewers where able to improve defensively at CF and add a quality starter and catcher. It just didn’t pan out as Wolf as sucked mightly, and the other 2 are lost for the season due to injuries.

  11. dd says: July 23, 2010

    If Hardy’s range was so bad, why was his UZR consistently around 6-7 for the brewers, good for a top 5 spot among shortstops defensively? Escobar comes in at .1 for this year…and I know it’s an incredibly small sample size, but his defense has looked average at best (with the occasional flash of brilliance), which is what the statistics say.

    Escobar’s still young though, he has a lot of room to grow as a player. I don’t think anyone can say which SS should have been traded until we see what escobar’s doing in his 3rd year.

  12. Gnosis says: July 23, 2010

    Jaymes hit it on the head when he points out that the Gomez for Hardy trade was made in large part to clear Cameron’s salary. The only reason the trade is being scrutinized at this point is because Davis and Wolf have underperformed so mightily and Hawkins and Zaunn have been even less valuable to the team. Without Cameron’s salary on this year’s team the Brewers could never have been players in the free agent market last year. The fact remains that this team’s management is not capable of A. affording a high priced free-agent pitcher and B. hitting on a type B free agent that has some gas left in the tank.

  13. Matt says: July 23, 2010

    UZR takes a lot of things into account besides range of shortstop, but i assume you know that. Defensively he will rank torwards the top because he hsa made the least amount of errors by a shortstop in the last 3 years. He also is one of the best at turning double plays. But if you can honestly sit there and say if you had to name off 5 short stops in the league (defensively) that you could have on your team and you would name JJ Hardy in there, i think you are either lying to yourself, or building an average at best team.

  14. Rob says: July 23, 2010

    Except Hardy has a very good range score. Just because he isn’t constantly out of position and so doesn’t have to make Jeter like jump throws doesn’t mean he has no range. He has a much better range than Escobar.

  15. Ryan says: July 23, 2010

    You guys can look at your UZR’s and WAR’s all you want but it is clear as day to me that Escobar is a much better SS than Hardy. Hardy is what he is, he can field it when it comes straight to him and he has a great accurate arm. However, he has absolutely no range. Is Escobar perfect? No, but he makes some 4 million less than Hardy, is about as effective at the plate (Hardy more power but less contact) and he has more range than Hardy could ever dream of. If you don’t think that’s the case than you are kidding yourself.

    • Jack Moore says: July 24, 2010

      Ryan -

      Watch how far back Hardy is able to play. Because he has a ridiculously strong and accurate arm and a good first step, he can play farther back, which let’s him get to balls that most shortstops couldn’t even dream of getting to.

      Saying that Hardy has “absolutely no range” is just a straight up ridiculous statement.

  16. Rob says: July 23, 2010

    And its clear to me Escobar isn’t Hardy’s league. I have my eyes and evidence on my side. Then again out of position players diving to get to balls doesn’t impress me that much.

  17. joe says: July 23, 2010

    As a twins fan, I love this trade, Hardy might have been hurt alot so far but Gomez is a train wreck, he strikes out alot, throws wild sometimes, makes baserunning mistakes, and never takes a walk. I remember teams walking nick punto just to strikeout gomez.

  18. crichar3 says: July 23, 2010

    While it is true that Escobar is 23, learning, and might get better with time, the days where the Brewers could be patient and let players develop in the big leagues is past. When they dealt Hardy, they needed his replacement to be ready to play at a high level and not be mediocre in the field and a negative at the plate.

    I agree with the thrust of this post: Escobar, not Hardy, should have been dealt.

  19. Alex says: July 25, 2010

    Trading Escobar is a absolute stupid comment. Escobar was considered the next Ozzie Smith coming out of the minors. He has struggled this year but many rookies do and you guys have to give him some time to develop. I like Hardy good player, solid defense but struck out to much and Brewers strike out to much as a team. They are hoping escobar can turn into a lead off hitter and then they can put Weeks into a more productive roll, especially after they lose Prince. Gomez is young also, even though he has been in the league for a couple years, I will give him a little while to figure it out also before I say it was a terrible trade. The biggest problem the brewers have is they over pay for pitchers coming off there best years, especially Wolf who pitched in a pitchers park in LA and Suppan who has a great postseason.


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