Friday, November 6, 2009

Damage Control

In the winter of 2008 the Minnesota Twins traded (at the time) the best pitcher on the planet, Johan Santana, for a package of prospects from the New York Mets.  A trade that left most scratching their heads and almost everyone in agreement that the Twins screwed up royally in not pulling the trigger on a more lucrative deal at the 2007 trade deadline.

Today the Twins and GM Bill Smith did what they could to salvage that rare misstep when they traded the centerpiece of that Santana trade, center fielder Carlos Gomez, to the Brewers for shortstop J.J. Hardy.

Now clearly, what now amounts to a Santana-for-Hardy deal is hardly a win for the Twins, but you have to be impressed with their ability to acquire a young shortstop with a quality track record, 2009 notwithstanding.

Gomez was, for all intents and purposes, a complete waste of time for the Twins.  He had his moments, but they were few and far between, generally sandwiched between aggravating mental mistakes which killed his chances of ever becoming a full time player.

Hardy meanwhile is coming off a horrendous 2009 campaign that saw him benched in favor of 22-year-old rookie Alcides Escobar, and ultimately sent back to the minors.  This after back-to-back seasons in which he averaged 25 homeruns and an .803 OPS.

At 27, Hardy is still fully capable of returning to the form that saw him make the All-Star team in 2007 and is under the Twins control contractually until 2011.  Should Hardy indeed rebound from a difficult 2009, this could easily be the steal of the winter in terms of trades.

Gomez should fit the National League game a bit better offensively, and he'll be very useful in the larger parks that populate the senior circuit.  However I have a hard time believing he'll ever be anything more than what he is now, an athletic spark plug who will never hit above .260 and will frustrate more than he'll succeed.

The move also clears up the outfield situation for the Twins, assuming they pick up the $10.5 million option on right fielder Michael Cuddyer.  

All-in-all I can't help but love this trade for the Twins.  I firmly believe last year was a fluke for Hardy and ultimately even an average season for him will be a major upgrade over Orlando Cabrera or any of the other players they may have tried at shortstop.  The fact that he's affordable and young is simply icing on the cake.

The Twins will never be able to live down giving away Santana, but a deal like this can only help ease the pain.

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