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Friday, November 06, 2009

Trading Goats

I was just reading about the Carlos Gomez for J. J. Hardy trade. It is an interesting deal, reminiscent of the Delmon Young for Matt Garza and Jason Bartlett trade Minnesota was involved in a couple years back, as it is essentially an exchange of underperforming young players who are still very capable of blossoming into solid contributers (although Gomez and Hardy probably don't have quite the "superstar" ceiling of Young and Garza). Much like that trade, it will be hard to evaluate for at least a couple of years. It could turn out that one player blooms and the other doesn't, that both do, or both do not.

Also, the trade fills similar needs for both sides. The Twins can now rest easy that Denard Span, Michael Cuddyer, Jason Kubel, and Young will all be able to play everyday. Hardy, no matter how he hits, is an A+ defender, combined with Nick Punto, the Twins may have one of the best double-play combos in the league. Similarly, for the Brewers, Hardy's departure means they can hand Alcides Escobar a starting role. Gomez's centerfield defense is clearly what Milwaukee is after, any improvements he makes at the plate will just be a bonus in a lineup which is already loaded with offensive talent. Also, for both teams, this precludes the signing of good, but potentially risky and/or overpriced veterans (Orlando Cabrera and Mike Cameron).

Although I would classify this a win-win scenario, I like the trade slightly better from Milwaukee's angle, only because Gomez will be under their control for longer and isn't eligible for arbitration yet. Hardy will make upwards of $5 Million in each of the next two years and qualify for free agency at the end of 2011, whereas Gomez has another year at the minimum and won't hit the market until 2013. Money is everything for small-market teams, both of which are anticipating contract negotiations with their franchise players (Joe Mauer and Prince Fielder).

However, the Twins may like the impact Hardy can make immediately. Despite a down year in '09, he has already proven he can be an offensive force, having had two excellent seasons, including an All-Star appearance, in '07 and '08. We can't underestimate the fact that this may be a "prequel" move for the Twins. By symbolically casting aside a postseason "goat," they offer a testament to their intention to be active this offseason and again field a competitive team in 2010. Such a move might be valuable for two reasons: a.) they are trying to sell season tickets in their new stadium and b.) they are trying to sign Joe Mauer to a long-term contract. Both the fans and the fan-favorite catcher will be enthusiastic about the fact that the franchise is "hitting the ground running," "has a plan," "is committed to winning," etc., etc.

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