Remove J.J. Hardy from the Red Sox? list of offseason targets to fill the void at shortstop. According to MLB.com, the Brewers? castaway is heading to the Twins in a trade for center fielder Carlos Gomez.
The 27-year-old Hardy took a big step backward during the past season, batting just .229 with a .659 OPS. He was demoted to the minors during the summer, as the Brewers took an extended look at top prospect Alcides Escobar. It appears general manager Doug Melvin saw enough to take a chance on the youngster and ship Hardy to Minnesota.
Despite his recent struggles, Hardy remains a decent bet to have a quality career as a big league shortstop. He?s just a year removed from batting .283 with 24 home runs, and he mashed 26 long balls in 2007. Hardy is also an above-average fielder at the most important position on the diamond, and should be an improvement over the departing Orlando Cabrera in that regard. Hardy?s potential for a significant rebound drew the attention of Twins GM Bill Smith, who will commit roughly $6 million of his payroll to the arbitration-eligible Hardy next season.
Carlos Gomez, meanwhile, fell out of favor in Minnesota after being acquired as the centerpiece of the package the Twins received from the Mets in exchange for Johan Santana. Gomez has blistering speed and is an excellent defender in the outfield, but his offensive skills — namely an abysmal .229/.287/.337 line in 2009 — are severely lacking.
Still, Gomez is only 23 years old and may yet develop into a passable leadoff hitter. He is markedly cheaper than impending free agent Mike Cameron ($10 million salary in 2009), which should allow Melvin to devote much of his offseason budget to repairing Milwaukee?s defunct pitching staff.
The player who benefits more from the change of scenery will determine which team wins this deal in the long run.