On this date a year ago, J.J. Hardy was hitting .275/.336/.462 with 17 home runs. Hardy is hitting .229/.300/.367 with 11 home runs this year, and for the time being, won’t have the opportunity to change his line anytime soon. The Brewers have officially optioned him to Triple-A and promoted their top prospect, shortstop Alcides Escobar, to the major leagues.
Hardy is older, more expensive, and was a season from free agency (more on that from Dave tomorrow), so it was clear that Escobar was the Brewers shortstop heading forward. The estimated time of arrival was up in the air, with Hardy still around and presumably possessing some trade value, but remaining with the team through July and not even being placed on waivers. I don’t know what the league would offer for Hardy, but for a team in desperate need of pitching help, you have to imagine a shortstop averaging a little over 3 WAR per season could bring a starter or two back, right?
Perhaps the Brewers want Hardy to dominate in Triple-A, therefore being able to showcase him as someone who still possesses skills. His ratio of line drives and groundballs hit are down as well, which is contributing to his poor luck on balls in play. Hardy’s strikeouts are up for the second consecutive season, but so are his walks. I wouldn’t be shocked to see him return to form with whatever team lands him this off-season, maybe as this year’s Nick Swisher?
Escobar is a fantastic defender and his bat has caught up with this glove over the last year. His first exposure to Double-A ended with a .296 wOBA, but last year he repeated the level with vengeance, staking a .369 figure. This year he’s hitting well in Triple-A , with a .351 wOBA. He’s an extremely good thief on the path when he gets on, but the most glaring weakness in his game right now is his ability to draw walks, something he’s improved on this year, but could still use some work.
I’m not entirely sure this makes the Brewers a better team this year, nor am I sure any added benefit was worth potentially sinking even more of Hardy’s trade value. Doug Melvin knows more about the second part of that statement than I do, so we’ll see how he handles Hardy in the off-season.