06 November 2009
Earlier today, the Twins completed a trade with the Milwaukee Brewers that sent Carlos Gomez down I-94 and made JJ Hardy a Twin.
The general fan reaction to this trade is positive. Gomez was a fan-favorite, but trading from the abundance of outfielders for a much-needed shortstop is regarded as a smart decision.
In the short-term, Minnesota has a small advantage in this trade. Prior to this morning, there were three vacant spots in the infield and just one player to fill them. By acquiring Hardy, Bill Smith addressed an unavoidable problem. Now, both second- and third-base are empty, but Nick Punto is very capable of filling either of those positions.
Hardy's value is at rock-bottom, but he will be able to provide around 25 home runs per season and get on base at a steady clip. This "steady clip," though, is well below an acceptable level for a No. 2 hitter, which creates another problem for Minnesota. With the signing of Hardy, Orlando Cabrera will not be awarded with a new contract this winter, leaving a huge hole after Denard Span in the batting order.
Unless Smith and Ron Gardenhire plan on putting Punto in the No. 2 position in the lineup next season (something they did 152 times from '06-08), there will be at least one more move this winter.
For now, though, Hardy will be a welcome sight in a relatively empty Minnesota infield. Was the accompanying price tag too much for the Twins, though? His arbitration eligibility aside, the Twins were forced to give up Gomez, a first-rate defensive outfielder. While the 24-year-old's struggles at the plate have been well documented, his value to the pitching staff is not measurable.
As Parker Hageman points out, the Twins have the highest fly-ball tendencies in the major leagues, while having the third-lowest ground ball rate. The departure of Gomez will be a huge defensive hit for the Twins and their pitching staff in an area where defense is vital, and a defensive improvement where skill with the glove isn't as necessary.
This move, while debilitating the outfield defense quite a bit, certainly clears up the outfield alignment picture.
For better or worse, Delmon Young will be playing left field every day. Denard Span will be in center field, Michael Cuddyer in right field, and Jason Kubel providing the occasional start. If Span goes down with injury or simply needs a day off, though, there is no one fit to take his place. This could lead to the promotion of either Dustin Martin or another fringe-AAAA outfielder.
In the end, though, this is a good trade by Smith. He traded from a position of surplus for a position of need. And that's all you can reasonably ask of a general manager.
Be sure to stick around TwinsTarget for the next few months for full coverage of what should turn out to be an exciting offseason. This glossy recap of the Hardy/Gomez swap doesn't go into much detail, which is something that will be remedied in a few days!
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