The general state of business I've found myself in over the last few weeks has made it difficult to complete my ambitious Offseason Blueprint entry, wherein I spell out every move I'd make as Twins GM from here to Spring Training. Bill Smith is quickly making such a gesture obsolete. He outrighted Brian Buscher earlier this week, and yesterday sent CF Carlos Gomez to the Brewers for SS JJ Hardy, straight up.
Had I managed to post my Blueprint entry by now, you'd have seen that I wanted the Twins to trade for Hardy. He is a highly-rated defender at SS, first of all, and defense is something I think the Twins should be emphasizing as they build their team for 2010. He is also one of the better power threats from that position, averaging 30 2B and 25 HR between 2007-2008. He had a terrible season last year, batting just .229/.302/.357 with 11 HR in 115 games before being sent down to AAA in order to clear space for defensive whiz-kid Alcides Escobar. (Even that isn't terribly worse than the .263/.309/.374 with 10 HR that all Twins SS produced in 2009.) That move delayed Hardy's eligibility for free agency until after 2011, so the Twins will control him for the next 2 seasons, and he's just entering his peak. Even though his average and slugging plummeted, Hardy's walk rate improved for the 3rd straight year. If his hitting rebounds, and his defense remains consistent, the Twins will have one of the best SS in the AL.
In exchange, they part with Gomez. I always preferred Denard Span, but Gomez was without peer as a defender in CF and saved the Twins a ton of runs with his spectacular range. However, his skills at the plate are severely lacking, and he probably should have spent at least one of the last 2 years at Rochester. Maybe it would have made sense to send him there this season - his talent certainly is worth developing. In any case, his role with the Twins turned into nothing more than legs for Jason Kubel or a defensive upgrade over Delmon Young. Jason Pridie is perfectly capable of providing that for the Twins. Turning a bench OF into an everday SS is a pretty good trade for the Twins, just as turning a bench SS into an everyday CF is good for the Brewers.
One obvious implication of this move is that Delmon Young is going to be in the lineup everyday, at least to start the season. That means he has to get a lot better, in just about every facet of his game. He showed a nice uptick in power, particularly after the All-Star break, but his BB rate went backward, he suddenly wasn't an effective base stealer, and his defense in LF remained very poor. But he's just 24, so there's still time.
I was going to suggest that the Twins trade Brian Duensing and a role-player for Hardy. I like this deal - well done, Bill Smith. And, in case I don't get it posted in the next couple of days, let me go on record as saying the Twins should decline Michael Cuddyer's option. Details to come...