There has been lots of talk the last few days in regards to the Twins and JJ Hardy. At first glance, Bill Smith would have to be declared mentally insane for trading a player that we got last season and for what? Relief pitching? Why in the world would the Twins trade a player that has been productive at the plate and is a pretty good defender at short with the exception an error once in a while and his injury history. After the jump, some reasons why JJ Hardy could be included in this year's blockbuster trade.
Last year was a big one for the Twins with the opening of Target Field. Although, the season ended in a postseason letdown, JJ Hardy was one of the reasons why the Twins not only managed to win the division, but do so in dominating fashion. So, why is he on the trading block? Does Bill Smith have a death wish against the Twins? Did Gardy catch JJ with one of his girls? Was JJ responsible for keeping Joe Mauer from tearing up the Twins Clubhouse? Did Brad Childress actually get fired from the Vikings only to take over as GM of the Twins? Honestly, the answer to all but the first is no. So, why are the Twins dangling JJ Hardy?
1. Take a quick look at Yahoo's Free Agent Tracker and tell me that this year's market is rich in free agent shortstops. One quick glance will tell you that Cesar Izturis is the top remaining shortstop in the FA class and he is ranked in the top 100. Guess what Yahoo says about him. Yahoo says that Izturis is the worst hitter in the major leagues last season, but should stay employed due to his defense. That is being kind for a player ranked 99th on this list. Bill Smith would be in idiot not to notice this fact.
2. In contrast, there is a major market for outfielders. (eight outfielders left in top 100 compared to one shortstop) and that is a reason why we can't shop Michael Cuddyer though we have been making trade proposals involving him. The logical thing is to shop Cuddyer, but the fact is that he costs $11.5 million, plays 1st base in addition to the outfield, and I am sure that Gardy told Smith that Cuddyer is untradable as far as the Twins are concerned. As for JJ Hardy, he costs about $7 million and though we would have $4 million more on the books than if we traded Cuddyer, we will get good prospects for him.
3. Bill Smith has never failed us in the past. The fact is that the players fail the Twins and Bill Smith. When anybody plays in this ballclub, or any other for that matter, they are expected to give their best performance, or they are done. The main case is Albert Haynesworth and the Washington Redskins of the NFL. All he did was have a career year with Tennessee and he used that year to bilk the Redskins out of a huge amount of cash. Following that, he underperformed to the point of getting his head coach fired and did the same when the new coach said that he would change things and did so to the point that he was suspended by the team. Granted we don't have any prima-donnas on the Twins roster, but the Twins would be sure to DFA them if that were the case.
4. The options are plentiful as far as the Twins are concerned. Yes we have Alexi Casilla, but he is also a short term option for Minnesota. But there is more. How does the age of Tolbert sound? Matt Tolbert that is. We can also have Trevor Plouffe as a good shortstop. In the interchangeably direction, we have Luke Hughes who is a third baseman by trade, but that title was also put upon Cal Ripken Jr. when he first started in the majors. Translation, both can maybe play short, and that is the case with a certain A-Rod who switched to third base after his trade to the Yankees. Finally, there is the worst case scenario where Justin Morneau is still out forcing us to bring up Chris Parmelee for the season opener in Toronto and Gardy feels that Luke Hughes isn't quite ready for the day to day shortstop position. What are we going to do then. Simple, we insert Michael Cuddyer into short. I know this is harebrained, but all a player really does is cover second and Cuddyer would have all of spring training to learn the position if he hasn't done so.
5. Finally we are the ones that sign Cesar Izturis. Granted that he would be a offensive downgrade, but could be a defensive upgrade from JJ Hardy.
Besides, who knows what we could get in the blockbuster trade for JJ. Right now, almost everything seems endless. Right now the rumors have the Twins landing a reliever, despite the wide open market, because of Joe Nathan going down with Tommy John in the preseason, the bullpen was in flux, and we traded a top prospect catcher for Matt Capps at the non-waiver trade deadline and picked up Ron Mahay soon afterwords.
My closing point is this, Don't judge the trade rumors, judge the trade. Let's figure out what the other teams could give us in exchange. We could even wind up with Prince Fielder, Zach Duke, or even a starting pitcher we never knew that was on the trading block in the first place. Big deals like this are going to be surprising. All we know is that the Twins are in the middle of the big one with JJ Hardy as the big prize.