Thoughts on the Hardy for Gomez Deal - from Brew Crew Ball
I like the acquisition of Gomez, before we start putting any context on this trade. He's a ridiculously good defender, one of the best centerfielders in the game due to his tremendous speed and range. Being an elite defender gives him plenty of value before even looking at his offensive contributions. There's a tendency to group together 'good centerfielders'-- but there's a big difference between the tier of guys like Tony Gwynn Jr., Juan Pierre, and Jody Gerut, and truly elite defenders like Gomez.
Gomez, right now, is not a good offensive player. He's been basically a replacement-level hitter in his time in the big leagues so far. That does not mean he's been a replacement level player, though, because his stellar defense has made him worth between about 1 and 2 wins in his two full seasons. He has a career .286 wOBA, and the league average is around .333-- and wOBA includes stolen base contributions. His career slash line is .246/.292/.346.
There's reason to believe that Gomez has a much bigger offensive upside. He was a very highly regarded prospect in his day, and a major piece in the Johan Santana deal. In A-ball as a 19 year-old, he .275/.335/.380; then he came in with a .281/.350/.423 line at AA at age 20. He was bumped to the majors by the Mets at age 21 after hitting .271/.353/.361 in AAA. He's been in the majors since then, with that completed year and two more with the Twins, and hasn't cracked a .300 OBP. Just based on his profile, it has to be possible that there's an upside of even a .320-.330 OBP and .350 SLG this year, which would go a long way towards making Gomez a much more valuable player. He'd practically be an all-star if he was a league average hitter, but that's probably too much to ask for at this point. He'll be here for four years, though, so there's still hope.
Gomez is a lot of fun to watch. I usually don't get caught up in that type of stuff, but I always found it amusing to see him take a monster hack at a pitch and almost corkscrew himself into the ground, and then bunt on the next pitch. And his energy on the basepaths and ability in center will keep us entertained.
In terms of total value, this deal is pretty close to an even match. The expected value of Hardy's production over his salary in the next two years is very close to the amount of expected value of Gomez's production over his salary in the next four years. That's a strategy for a team that doesn't expect to be in contention for the next two years, however, so it doesn't quite make sense to me why the Brewers chose to do this type of deal. I'm just going to go ahead and quote Graham from Lookout Landing, who was disappointed that the Mariners didn't beat the Twins asking price for Hardy: In terms of money/talent, the deal makes a good amount of sense for both sides. The Twins get a big upgrade at shortstop, the Brewers deal from depth to cover a weak position (albeit not that well) for free, and have some more money to play with in free agency. As the return for a guy like Hardy, Gomez the talent is rather underwhelming, but the financial flexibility he provides is useful. Could/should the Brewers have gotten more for him? Yes. But they didn't, which is where this deal becomes weird from the Milwaukee side. They had an asset which had less value to them than to the rest of the league, but they sold him for his value to them rather than anyone else's, which is not the best trading strategy in the world.
The Brewers did everything wrong in their handling of Hardy. The last line from Graham pretty much sums up what I think-- they sold Hardy at the value to them rather than his actual value. The whole situation has been bizarre-- sending him to AAA and promoting Escobar to shake things up when there was no real reason for doing so expect gaining a year of service time that apparently increased his value to... Carlos Gomez. Yes, Hardy had a bad year. Projecting him with a weight of 3/2/1 for the last three seasons still gives a 2-3 win player with 5 win upside easily. Even at his worst, last season, he was better than Gomez was last year. And maybe the strangest part of this deal was the huge rush. It happened two days after the World Series, and Doug Melvin admitted he didn't even call a team with a shortstop shortage, the Tigers, much less the rest of the league. Not only did he sell Hardy at the absolute lowest point of his value, but he managed to pull the trigger so quickly there's no telling what might have happened had he held on longer. I doubt the Twins would have pulled their Gomez offer from the table.
Melvin didn't even touch the pitching staff with his biggest trading chip, and downgraded the offense. Sure, the extra savings from Hardy to Escobar and Cameron to Gomez give the Brewers some money to throw at a free agent pitcher. But that's not the logical way to look at it. Say the Brewers had accepted the apparent Red Sox offer of Michael Bowden for Hardy. Bowden, at the mininum, makes even less than Gomez next year, and Hardy's salary is gone either way. In this situation, with even a little bit more money to play with, they could re-sign Cameron to play center for maybe 1 year, $8-10 million because they don't have to worry about another pitcher-- or they could sign a righty centerfielder like Reed Johnson to platoon with Jody Gerut, a platoon which would project about the same as the Gomez and Gerut situation going on right now, in 2010 at least. Gomez is a better bet for the following three years, but remember that Lorenzo Cain and Logan Schafer are coming and might have been able to fill in the gap by 2011. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Would we rather be looking at a rotation of Gallardo, Parra, Bowden, Bush, Suppan with Cam in center and an extra $5 mil, or that same rotation with Gerut/platoonmate in center and $15 million to throw at Erik Bedard, Ben Sheets, Rich Harden, or Justin Duchscherer? Again, it's such a strange idea to throw your most valuable trading chip at a really slight position player upgrade for 2010. It just looks like he's playing for down the road. If salary relief is one of the good parts of the trade... well, non-tendering J.J. would have gotten salary relief too. Getting Bowden would have accomplished the same thing. I don't know why we have to consider this a positive in the trade.
I really like the idea of getting Gomez here. He's a nice piece to have. Not for the price of Hardy, though. And I don't understand the way Doug Melvin handled this situation overall. He could have done so much better. I'll wait to judge his offseason until we see if the available money is handled the right way. One thing I will say now-- I hope the moves will be with a consistent goal in mind. Spending the money on starters like Washburn, Piniero, and Marquis would probably not upgrade the team enough to justify the spending and commitment, which is why I suggest 1 year deals for injury-prone pitchers. And if they do decide to target a pitcher, I hope Casey McGehee is more likely to be traded than Mat Gamel. Acquiring Gomez and dealing Gamel would probably indicate a confused set of goals about when the team's window of contention is.