Brewers trade Hardy for Gomez
By Tom Haudricourt of the Journal Sentinel
Interesting steal for the Twins.
Nov. 6, 2009 10:50 a.m.
As it turns out, the Brewers will not be trading shortstop J.J. Hardy for pitching help after all. Instead, the Brewers used Hardy today to address their centerfield position, trading him to the Minnesota Twins for Carlos Gomez, a speedster who has been an offensive underachiever.
The move makes it clear that the Brewers have decided to part ways with veteran centerfielder Mike Cameron, who is eligible for free agency. Cameron, 36, has been the starter in center for two years but made $10 million in salary this year, and the Brewers obviously plan to use that money in their attempts to upgrade their starting rotation.
Gomez, who will be 24 on Dec. 4, was one of four players traded by the New York Mets to the Twins on Jan. 29, 2008 for left-hander Johan Santana. Considered one of the top prospects in the Mets’ organization, he replaced the departed Torii Hunter as Minnesota’s starting centerfielder and batted .258 in 153 games that season with 24 doubles, seven triples, seven homers, 59 RBI and 33 stolen bases.
Gomez began the 2009 season as the starting centerfielder but batted only .195 through the first month and was moved to a reserve role. In 137 games and only 315 at-bats, he batted .229 with three homers and 28 RBI, with 15 doubles, three triples and 14 stolen bases. His on-base percentage was .287.
In 348 major league games, the right-handed-hitting Gomez has batted .246 with 12 homers and 99 RBI, with 59 stolen bases. He has a .292 on-base percentage and .337 slugging percentage. Not exactly what you want to see from a player whose main tool is speed.
Hardy, 27, became the Brewers’ starting shortstop in 2005, a role he held until August of this season. Mired in a dreadful slump that he couldn’t shake, Hardy was sent down to Class AAA Nashville in a somewhat stunning move and replaced by prospect Alcides Escobar, promoted from that club.
In 115 games, Hardy batted .229 with 11 homers and 47 RBI. It was in start contrast to the previous two seasons, when Hardy batted .277 with 26 homers and 80 RBI, and .283 with 24 homers and 74 RBI, respectively.
By keeping Hardy in the minors exactly 20 days, the Brewers pushed back his free agency until after the 2011 season, making him more palatable in a trade. In the meantime, Escobar took over the shortstop job and excelled, batting .304 in 38 games.
Hardy mostly sat on the bench after returning in September, and it was evident that the Brewers were ready to turn the page at shortstop. It was quite a fall from grace for a player who made the National League all-star team in 2007.
Escobar, who turns 23 in December, batted .298 with 24 doubles, six triples, four homers, 34 RBI and 42 stolen bases in 109 games with Nashville before being promoted. A superior defensive shortstop, he is rated the No. 1 prospect in the organization by Baseball America magazine.
Hardy made $4.65 million this season and Escobar will make just over the minimum of $400,000, so there’s a financial component to the deal as well. Hardy is eligible for arbitration again this winter and such players usually get raises even with off seasons.
Gomez made $437,500 this year and I believe he qualifies for arbitration this winter exactly with the 2 years, 141 days needed for “Super 2” status.
The Brewers will lose considerable pop in center with the exodus of Cameron. He hit 25 homers with 70 RBI in 2008 after signing a free-agent deal, and socked 24 homers with 70 RBI this year. Cameron also played Gold Glove-caliber defense in center but was strikeout prone, with 142 Ks in ’08 and 156 this year while compiling a .342 on-base percentage.
Cameron is a Class B free agent. To get a supplemental draft pick in exchange for him signing with another club, the Brewers would have to offer him salary arbitration. Because the signing club doesn’t forfeit a pick, he might sign before that deadline, however, giving the Brewers the draft pick.
Cameron filed for free agency Thursday, the first day players were eligible to do so. Other Brewers filing were catcher Jason Kendall, second baseman Felipe Lopez, and outfielders Frank Catalanotto and Corey Patterson.
HERE IS A QUOTE FROM GM DOUG MELVIN ABOUT GOMEZ:
“Carlos brings to our club great speed, athleticism and energy at a position that we needed to fill,” said Melvin. “His defense will serve as a key component to us improving our pitching. At only 24 years of age, Carlos can further develop the offensive aspect of his game and give us a different look to our lineup.”
AND ABOUT HARDY:
“J.J. has been a steady performer for the Brewers,” said Melvin. “His professionalism and popularity with our fans and his teammates made this difficult, but he has been given the opportunity to go to a great organization to play and perform at the high level he is capable of playing.”