Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Dissecting the Bill Smith Era: The Hardy-Hoey trade

J.J. Hardy was charged with 11 errors in 2010
with the Twins, six in 2011 with Baltimore.
When: Dec. 9, 2010
What: The Twins traded shortstop J.J. Hardy, infielder Brendan Harris and cash to Baltimore for right-handed pitchers Jim Hoey and Brett Jacobson.
Value: Hardy is credited with 22 win shares and 4.1 WAR in 2011; Hoey with zero WS and -0.4 WAR. Neither Harris nor Jacobson played in the majors in 2011. Hardy, who turned 29 in August, signed a three-year deal with the Orioles during the 2011 season. Hoey was sold to Toronto this offseason in a waiver deal. Harris is a free agent. Jacobson remains in the Twins system.
Twins motivation: A combination of payroll cutting, adding velocity-oriented bullpen options and the belief that Hardy didn't fit Target Field/wasn't as good as his 2007-08 seasons indicate/was readily replaceable.

As with the Capps-Ramos trade discussed here last week, it would be difficult to make this deal turn out any worse for the Twins than it did in 2011.

Jim Hoey allowed
four homers in
24.2 innings in 2011.
Hoey indeed had a high-velocity fast ball. But he lacked a useful secondary pitch and command and movement on the fastball, which made him imminently hittable and, ultimately, not the successor to the LaTroy Hawkins-Jesse Crain line of middle-relief power arms.

And Hardy had the best offensive season of his rather inconsistent career.

Hardy had two good power seasons for Milwaukee in 2007-08, when he averaged 25 homers. But he fell off badly in 2009, and the Brewers traded him to make room for the younger, rangier and cheaper Alcedes Escobar (whom they later traded in the Zach Greinke deal). With the Twins, Hardy again didn't hit for the anticipated power (six homers) and was limited to 95 starts at shortstop in 2010, his sole season in Minnesota.

With Baltimore in 2011, he bopped 30 homers (and added 27 doubles). Zing!

One factor may be health. He had a hand injury early in the 2010 season and it was never fully healed. He implied last season that he had the same problem early in 2011 and the Orioles (unlike the Twins) medical staff was able to fix it.

Another factor may be ballparks. Home runs come easier in Camden Yards than in Target Field. And he plays more road games now in smaller yards, such as Fenway Park, than he did in the AL Central, where Detroit and Kansas City offer two other difficult places to hit long balls. He hit 15 homers home and road last season; in 2010, he hit one homer in Minnesota, five on the road.

What is Hardy's real level of offensive ability? He has in 2007-11 three seasons of 26, 24 and 30 homers; he also has seasons of 6 and 11. Much of his offensive value is in his power; he has one season in his career with an OBP above .330. If he ain't slugging, he ain't hitting -- and in the offseason of 2010-11, he hadn't slugged for two years.

So Hardy was -- like Ramos -- at a low point of value when the Twins moved him.

The Twins didn't trade him until they had the Tsuyoshi Nishioka deal essentially in place. They expected Nishi to fill one of the middle infield slots; that didn't work either. (I'll discuss the Nishioka deal in another post.) Misreading Nishioka's ability played a role in trading away Hardy.

Then there's this: With the giant Mauer contract about to kick in, the Twins had to get cheaper at other roster spots. Even with the jettisoning of most of the bullpen veterans and the departure of second baseman Orlando Hudson, they essentially needed to clear out one of Carl Pavano, Matt Capps, Delmon Young, Jason Kubel or Hardy.

They chose the one who had had the worst 2010 season. They also unloaded Brendan Harris, although I don't know that they saved much money on that (I think they gave the O's enough cash to pay for Harris' major-league deal).

1 comment:

  1. As I understand it, the alternative to trading Hardy was to let him walk for nothing. They were not going to pay him his arbitration salary. They did pick up part of Harris salary, but they dumped part of it as well.

    Obviously Hardy was worth the money he was paid last year. But that wasn't the Twins problem. The Twins problem was that Nishioka wasn't an adequate replacement.