I've been reading around the Twins blogs and other blogs for the past hour or so soaking up the various opinions on the JJ Hardy trade the Twins executed today with the Baltimore Orioles. Had I any time to write a post earlier today I might have gone by the numbers and tried to make a case one way or the other, but I'm late to the game so I'll skip that and just give straight up opinion.
Back in October I wrote a piece laying out an argument for bringing back Hardy and claiming that he should be the Twins #1 priority to re-sign in the off-season...so much for that. The bottomline for my argument was that a) Hardy is way more valuable when compared to other shortstops and what's available than he looks to be standing alone and b) $7M is not too much to pay for a proven defensive commodity with offensive upside. As Nick Nelson highlighted in his opinion of the trade, the Twins now find themselves with a very unstable and highly risky setup at SS and 2nd, relying heavily on a very average Alexi Casilla and an unproven Tsuyoshi Nishioka (provided the Twins do actually sign him). Granted, they did save, by all accounts, about $3-$4M in salary between what Hardy would have gotten and Harris' salary, but I'm not sure that savings justifies the trade.
The most irritating thing I'm reading through all of this is that this trade would somehow be justified if the Twins turn around and re-sign Carl Pavano. Um...NO, IT WOULDN'T. First of all, re-signing a 35-year old pitcher to a 3-year deal and then saying that it somehow justifies trading away a semi-valuable 28-year-old shortstop is idiotic logic. For another thing, I'm sick of hearing about how resigning Pavano is a good idea. It's not a good idea. The guy has a track record of injury and locking him in till he's 38 is just asking to get screwed. One and a half seasons of decent baseball does not a 3-year contract merit. What the Twins outta do is pursue a trade for an arm that other people aren't talking about...like Fausto Carmona or Wandy Rodriguez.
Twins Geek suggested that this move means the Twins payroll will only go up by 10-15% instead of 25%, I'm just not following the logic there. I think the Orioles offered the Twins those two also-ran minor league pitchers and the Twins front-office said (wisely), "why don't you take this flour-sack-of-a-player Brendan Harris off our hands too, ya know, to make the deal resemble something fair." And the Orioles said, "OK." I don't think it's any indication of the payroll situation, but it does work nicely either way in opening up another couple million to spend on pitchers.
David Golebiewski from FanGraphs said it best, "I’d be shocked if Casilla comes anywhere close to Hardy’s production level in 2011. Should Casilla get a starting job, it’s possible that he’s a win-and-a-half to two win downgrade at the position." That's a best-case scenario, and if either Casilla or Nishioka gets hurt, you're looking at the likes of Trevor Plouffe in the starting lineup and frankly, that's scary.
Here's to hoping a) Justin Morneau returns next season and resembles his old self, b) Kubel has a year that more closely resembles 2009, and c) the Twins don't have any injuries to their 2nd basemen or Shortstop. That's a lot to hope for.