The J.J. Hardy Trade: Minnesota’s Side

With the team making progress on a deal with Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the Minnesota Twins evidently felt comfortable enough with the club’s other middle infield options to deal shortstop J.J. Hardy (and utility man Brendan Harris) to the Baltimore Orioles in exchange for power relievers Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey. But in jettisoning Hardy for some ‘pen help, the Twins might be opening up a hole on the roster that Alexi Casilla isn’t capable of filling.

First, let’s start with what the Twins picked up. Jacobson, a 24-year-old righty reliever acquired from Detroit by the O’s in the 2009 Aubrey Huff deal, has moved through the minors at a glacial pace. The Vanderbilt product has 8.1 K/9, 3.3 BB/9 and a 4.00 FIP in 136.1 High Class A innings over the past two years. Jacobson has some sink on his low-90s fastball, which has helped him post a groundball rate exceeding 50%, but his secondary stuff (a curveball and a changeup) is considered ordinary and his peripherals suggest he’s likely headed for a career in middle relief.

Hoey has big league experience, having tossed 34.1 wild innings for Baltimore in 2006 and 2007 (6.29 K/9, 6.03 BB/9, 5.84 xFIP). Turning 28 later this month, Hoey rose to prominence in the Orioles’ system by punching out scores of hitters with upper-90s gas, but his career was sidetracked by shoulder surgery that wiped out his 2008 season. Since then, he has continued to miss bats (12 K/9 in 52.2 frames between Double-A and Triple-A this past year). But he also misses home plate way too often, having issued 5.8 BB/9 in 2010.

To pick up one control-challenged reliever who may or may not help this season and a slow-track ‘pen prospect, the Twins traded away one fungible player but also an above-average, up-the-middle starter who won’t be easily replaced.

The 30-year-old Harris is no big loss. During his three seasons with the Twins, he has a park and league-adjusted wOBA that’s 20 percent worse than average (80 wRC+). Add in lead-footed defense at third base, shortstop and second base, and you have a utility player without much utility — Harris has contributed +0.3 WAR over the past three years, including negative marks in 2009 and 2010.

Hardy, meanwhile, is coming off an injury-riddled 2010 season in which he still managed to post +2.4 WAR for the Twinkies. Acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in November of 2009 for outfielder Carlos Gomez, Hardy was limited to 375 plate appearances and 101 games by a left wrist ailment. While hardly robust, Hardy’s .268/.320/.394 triple-slash and 96 wRC+ weren’t terrible. His 2010 work is a pretty good representation of who he is at the plate — during his big league career, Hardy has a 98 wRC+.

The 28-year-old is close to an average MLB batter, but where he really stands out is in the field. Hardy had a +12.8 UZR/150 last season, and his career mark is +11 per 150 defensive games played. Hardy’s decent lumber/top-rate leather combo makes him an asset. Conservatively, Hardy projects as a +2.5 win player, and he could top 3 WAR if he’s over his wrist problems.

Entering arbitration for the final time, Hardy is expected to make something in the range of $6-7 million in 2011. If a win costs about $5 million, then Hardy’s projected 2011 production would be worth something in the range of $12-16 million. Are Jacobson and Hoey worth the surplus value that the Twins surrendered? I doubt it, and the deal leaves the reigning AL Central champs with a question mark at shortstop.

The Twins reportedly view Nishioka as a second baseman. If that’s the case, then Minnesota’s showing a lot of faith in making Casilla, who has been exactly replacement-level during his major league career, an everyday player. The 26-year-old switch-hitter owns a 77 wRC+ in a little more than 1,000 big league PA. He’s not an especially patient hitter (career 7.2 BB%) and he’s got Ecksteinian power (.077 ISO). Defensively, he has been a -8 run defender in about 2,000 innings at second base, with a little over 200 innings of work at shortstop.

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.

Perhaps the Twins were concerned about the bullpen, considering Jon Rauch, Jesse Crain, Matt Guerrier and Brian Fuentes are free agents. But they got a middling relief bounty in return for Hardy, while making themselves weaker in the everyday lineup.




Print This Post



A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


44 Responses to “The J.J. Hardy Trade: Minnesota’s Side”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Peter S says:

    Dead on. Great take.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Matt Kremnitzer says:

    Good read. (Question: Isn’t his name Jacobson?)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. chris says:

    Losing Hardy makes them weaker in the lineup?

    I guess, in the generic sense that they lose a hitter, in terms of production though, does it really matter all that much?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Steven Ellingson says:

      Um, yes, it does matter. You replace a league average hitter with a terrible hitter, and it makes a big difference.

      Also, now that Casilla is the starter, that means that Matt Tolbert is the utility guy. So the Twins now have a replacement level shortstop, and a below replacement level utility guy. Not to mention an injury prone second baseman who’s never played in the MLB, a third baseman who has a little over half a season in the mlb, and wasn’t a spectacular prospect before that, and first baseman who missed the last half of the season with head issues. And no real backup options at any infield position.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Chuck says:

        You have to look at this as a whole, not just 1 move. Clearing Hardy and Harris from the roster gives them 7 mil to work with. This will likely lead to signing some better quality relievers and hopefully a better utility player. So what would you rather have:

        Hardy (SS), Harris (not even in the bigs but making 1.75mil), Rookie Reliver, Rookie Reliever, Casilla bench.

        OR

        Casilla (SS), FA Utility Player (2 mil), FA Reliever (3 mil), FA Reliever (2 mil)

        In a vacuum it’s an odd trade, but the Twins still have a budget they have to stick to and a still a number of holes on the roster.

        Obviously I would have liked to see more in return, but you can only get what you can get based on other clubs’ valuation of Hardy. I was surprised when the Twins got Hardy for Gomez last year, so maybe Hardy is much less valuable than the stats or us fans think.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Bill@TPA says:

        “So what would you rather have:

        Hardy (SS), Harris (not even in the bigs but making 1.75mil), Rookie Reliver, Rookie Reliever, Casilla bench.

        OR

        Casilla (SS), FA Utility Player (2 mil), FA Reliever (3 mil), FA Reliever (2 mil)”

        Hardy in a second (could care less about Harris). FA relievers are overrated and always overpaid. They were much better off just keeping Hardy.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Luke in MN says:

        To Chuck: They probably cost themselves 2 or 3 wins while saving $7 million. Extremely unlikely that they can use that $7 million and pick up 2 or 3 wins on the free agent market. (Unless you’re figuring that their minor league bullpen options would have been sub-replacement level, which I doubt. Slama, Perkins, Waldrop, Manship, etc. aren’t world-beaters, but are fine.)

        You also have to look at the other places they’re choosing to spend money this offseason. Maybe $7-8 million for Capps. $5.5 million for Kubel. Sounds like they’re trying to land Pavano who isn’t even much of a rotation upgrade (especially since he almost surely won’t be replacing Blackburn). Their budget is tight, but that makes it all the more important not to throw away a guy in Hardy who was worth well over his salary.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • cowdisciple says:

        There’s also a frighteningly high possibility that one or both of Casilla and Nishioka could be below replacement level next year. This takes the Twins from an above-average middle infield to one which I would expect to be among the worst in baseball.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • cowdisciple says:

      I think you could argue that it’s actually probable that one of them will be.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. josh says:

    The Padres couldn’t come up with a better package than this?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • chuckb says:

      I was thinking the same thing about the Cardinals. Instead the Cardinals decided to go for Ryan Theriot. It boggles the mind.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • david says:

      It will be interesting to do a head-to-head comparison of Bartlett and Hardy this year, since they were both traded for essentially the same package of fungible relievers. (I tend to think the two guys the Padres gave up will be slightly better, but it’s pretty much a push.)

      I’m afraid the Padres are going to find they picked the brass ring in this particular game.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. AustinRHL says:

    I have to think that Minnesota knows something that we don’t with regard to Hardy, because it seems completely obvious that he’s a valuable player that’s worth much more than two mediocre relief prospects. Either that, or this is a move made to free payroll, which seems plausible, but even then, surely they could have gotten more in return?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Steven Ellingson says:

      Yes, it probably was to clear payroll, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s a terrible return. The Orioles weren’t the only team that needed a shortstop.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • John says:

      They didn’t know more about Bartlett before when they thought Harris was a better player.

      My favorite team got hosed in this deal, Smith’s trades have been absolutely awful w/ the possible exception of when they traded for Hardy dealing Gomez.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. Otter says:

    I don’t get this trade. The Twins never make trades that don’t make sense. So there has to be another shoe to drop here. Seriously, the Twins do not make deals that look both shortsighted in the near and long term.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • David says:

      I wouldn’t call it shortsighted – Jacobson was only in high-A last year, so he probably won’t be seeing the majors for 1 or 2 years at least. and it’s not like Hoey is a guaranteed performer for next season.

      if the alternative is non-tendering Hardy and releasing Harris (both of which were distinct possibilities), this is obviously preferable for the Twins. could they have gotten a better return? maybe, but I don’t see this as a horrible trade for the Twins.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Baltimore Joe says:

      The part that stands out to me for Minnesota is the fact that they gave up one year of a league average shortstop for potentially many years of relief pitching. I hope for their sake that they saw more in the guys they acquired than the rest of us do, and that the years of relief are at least decent as well….

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. fenam says:

    @otter, see garza and bartlett trade along with johan trade.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Otter says:

      I don’t think the Garza trade is going to be, in the end, all that bad for them. Young might actually be a pretty good player when it’s all said and done. Bartlett’s gone and Garza appears to be on his way out of Tampa. And at the time, that trade wasn’t in the “this doesn’t make sense” department.

      The Johan trade… my guess is that no one other than the Mets were willing to do the deal. When you have no leverage, you take the best you can get. The question is more should they have just let him walk for the two picks… in retrospect, mos def.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CircleChange11 says:

        I have a feeling we’ll be having the same discussion (and conclusion) about the Padres and AGon in 3 years.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • John says:

        Sorry, but as a Twins fan that Rays deal was a bust. Young has the type of skills that are overvalued when they come to arbitration. Now that he is about average, he will be paid as an above average player. He never has been good value for the Twins. Harris was never any good and the Twins throwing in Bartlett was them once again clearly not understanding the SS position. Every time they get decent at SS they deal him and replace him with someone much much worse.

        As far as the Johan trade, they would have been better off not dealing him, enjoying his production that year, and getting 2 picks.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. ralf says:

    The Twins get two relievers with good fastballs but who need to improve their control and secondary stuff. I have a lot of confidence in the Twins’ ability to turn that kind of pitcher into a useful Major League piece.

    However, they should have been able to get a lot more for Hardy, at the very least a guy who could pitch some middle innings for the big club in 2011. If you start talking about “surplus value” to the Twins’ front office they’d probably look at you all glassy-eyed.

    I hope they show more wisdom with the $7 mil they won’t be paying Hardy than they did with this trade.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Trev says:

    Why do other teams like the Orioles’ relief prospects so much?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Newcomer says:

    Does this mean they’ll resign Nick Punto? It looks like they’re making themselves a team that could actually use him.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • John says:

      Use him to do what exactly, miss the playoffs? But yeah, when Punto starts looking like a good option again, you know you are in trouble.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Cheese Whiz says:

    Yeah… this is just….. baffling. Hardy is an above average major league shortstop. As a Mariner fan I would have been thrilled to have him, and the best they could get for him was a couple of minor league relievers? Really? This leaves the Minnesota infield in an absolute mess, as no one knows what they have in Nishioka yet and the other candidates are completely underwhelming. Things are looking up in Chicago and Detroit.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Barkey Walker says:

      Too bad the Twins didn’t trade him for Lee last year. I think with a 0.268 BA he was the lowest (second lowest?) starter on the Twins last year, but would have been the second(?) highest BA starter for Seattle.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Doug Melvin says:

    This makes two JJ Hardy trades where everyone wonders why the teams trading him couldn’t get more for him.

    At this point, we know what JJ Hardy is: a plus defender, and, at the very best, a league average bat. 19% of his WAR value comes from his position alone. Just throwing in random scrub in at short is almost a quarter of the value of Hardy.

    I don’t think it’s even remotely unreasonable for a team to not trade for Hardy, let alone not want him. His ceiling is low–he hasn’t fixed the problems in his swing and approach that were the reasons he was sent down by the Brewers–and why give up any assets for a one year player when it isn’t going to take much at all to accomplish half of what Hardy does? Not including Hardy, there were 16 shortstops last year who had WAR’s at 2 or better, and 18 above 1.8. And 30 at 1.0! So say you already have 1 WAR at short, you’re going to go out and give up nonreplacement assets just for a one year rental of Hardy?

    It’s a completely defensible move for the Twins.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Considering they gave Jason Kubel $5 million next year to stumble around the OF and hit like J.J. Hardy, I don’t think it’s all that defensible.

      The Twins obviously got rid of the wrong guy here.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. PiratesBreak500 says:

    I’m in the camp of “why did Minnesota want to trade Hardy,” though from what I’ve read it seems more likely that Gardenhire wants Casilla to lead off, and as Nishioka will also be starting, that would have made Hardy a pretty expensive bench option. In that case, Hardy would only see bats as a util guy, and factoring that with his injury risk I can see the front office deciding they would rather utilize the money elsewhere. Most Fangraphs people would probably say this isn’t the best use of Hardy, but if that’s how they were planning on using him, the trade makes a bit of sense.

    That said, I’m wondering what the offers were from the Padres and Pirates, if this was really their best option or there was something in particular their scouts liked about these guys. Anyone know who the Padres and Pirates offered?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. Hamjeesh says:

    Why the Twins even traded for Hardy in the first place is beyond me, we are yet to truly replace Carlos Gomez

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Barkey Walker says:

    Not sure why nobody is mentioning this, but Hardy batted 80 points worse against lefties. This makes him… like the rest of the club. The Twins need better vs lefty batters to have a shot in the postseason where the NYY carve them up with their lefty heavy rotation.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. swheatle says:

    The deal only makes sense if the Twins were not going to offer arbitration to Hardy; they save that money and the money they would pay Harris and get two middling relief prospects instead of getting nothing.
    Nishioka, Casilla, and (probably) Punto; the Twins middle infield looks pretty brutal. In 2010, for the first time in years the Twins were getting positive production from their 2b/ss and now they go back to a potential black hole that allows the White Sox and Tigers to move a couple of wins closer.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. FL_O's Fan says:

    Funny thing is that the Twins got two relievers the O’s didn’t want. I can assure you if they were any good they would be on the O’s major league roster by now. These relievers are no spring chickens. Getting rid of them for an average shortstop beats the below average shortstop we had before. Bonus is Hardy is still young enough and has showed the potential to be one of the better SS in the league. Plus, Hardy is much better than Bartlett. The O’s got the better end of this deal.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Mookie says:

    Personally, I think this trade allows an opportunity to see Trevor Plouffe develop.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  19. Visnovsky says:

    This trade proves Bill Smith does not know what he is doing. He does not deserve to be running and ruining this franchise.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  20. Brian says:

    This trade has proven to be genius* by Billy Smith!

    *genius as in how to get fired

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *