In the hopes that a change of scenario will do the players good, the Milwaukee Brewers swapped slumping shortstop J.J. Hardy for the Minnesota Twins’ all-speed no-hit outfielder Carlos Gomez. Both players had horrible years in 2009, with Hardy losing his starting job and at one point even being relegated to the minors to regain his swing, while Carlos Gomez was often the fourth man in Minnesota’s outfield platoon. It’s always a risk when acquiring a player based on talent and expectations rather than actual results, but the difference between Hardy and Gomez is that Hardy has two seasons of decent offense under his belt, while Gomez has shown little besides blazing speed in his two years in the majors.
What the Brewers Get
Carlos Gomez, one of the players acquired by Minnesota in the Johan Santana trade, has always had blazing speed, but has never shown much else in his time in the majors. He has a career average of .246, and 241 strikeouts to only 55 walks, leading to a career on-base percentage of .292. He does have 59 steals in about 2 years of service time, but in 2009 he only managed 14 steals in 132 games played, and was caught seven times (for a lousy 67% stolen base rate).
The main reason for Milwaukee to acquire Gomez is to provide a much cheaper alternative to re-signing free-agent centerfielder Mike Cameron. Unfortunately, Gomez is a step down from Cameron in almost every respect (except, of course, in speed), and Cameron’s defense and power will be sorely missed next season. It’s also got to be remembered that a player’s speed can only be used to full advantage when he gets on base, and unless Gomez learns to take a few more walks and force pitchers to give him good pitches to hit, he won’t be able to steal enough bases to warrant keeping him in the lineup.
What the Twins Get
J.J. Hardy is coming off a horrible year. Following two years where he had over 20 home runs and a batting average above .275, Hardy only mustered a .229 average and 11 home runs in 2009.
It was becoming more and more apparent that the Brewers were going to move ahead with Alcides Escobar as their starting shortstop for 2010 with or without Hardy, so trading him came as no surprise. Fortunately for the Twins, the Brewers were more desperate than anyone realized, and unloaded him for next to nothing.
Hardy might struggle at first against American League pitching, but definitely has much shown more potential in the past than Gomez and should slide nicely in as a replacement for departing shortstop Orlando Cabrera. Hardy has the potential for 20+ homers, a good average, and has always been an above-average defender.
Although both players had horrible years in 2009, Hardy has shown the ability to produce in the majors while Gomez has not. Although Gomez gives the Brewers a lot of salary flexibility (he makes $4 million less than Hardy and allows the Brewers to let go of Mike Cameron, who made $10 million last season), his natural talent has never equated to production on the field. Hardy, meanwhile, costs about the same as Cabrera did last season for the Twins, and he frees the Twins’ front office up to pursue other needs rather than attempting to re-sign Cabrera.
Brewers’ grade: C
Twins’ grade: B+