J.J. Hardy was never one of my favorite Brewers. Between the "J.J. Makes Me Hardy" nonsense, the pink No. 7 T-shirts that dotted the crowd, his periodic sub-zero streaks at the plate, the fact that he got to (approximately) three balls hit to his left during his time in Milwaukee, and his "I'm a shortstop and I ain't playing anywhere else" hissy fit this year, I was never on board the Hardy bandwagon.
That said, I wasn't blind to the fact that he had some value. While he's nowhere near Alcides Escobar in terms of range, J.J. is a solid defender with a plus arm -- and, most importantly, he's shown the ability to put up 25-homer, .800-ish OPS seasons at a position that (right now) is offense-poor. Of course, Doug Melvin didn't do anything to help that value with his short-sighted decision to demote Hardy in August (whatever value was gained by the loss of service time and resulting extra year of team control was, in my opinion, more than canceled out by the fact that 'Stache stamped: "NOT IN NEXT YEAR'S PLANS: MUST TRADE" on J.J.'s forehead by sending him to AAA), but, still, you had to figure that J.J. was worth more than a back-up center fielder.
With the trade for Carlos Gomez, though, it seems that I figured wrong. This is Worst Nightmare stuff, folks.
Yes, I know that Gomez was a prized prospect in the Mets' system, and that he was one of the centerpieces of the Johan Santana trade -- but doesn't that immediately raise a red flag in your mind? This was (apparently) the guy the Twins wanted in the Santana trade, and now they're giving up on him after two years? That doesn't give you pause?
And, yes, I've heard/read that Gomez is a phenomenal defender. My response to that point is: he fucking better be, if he's going to put up Kendall-esque slash stats of .229/.287/.337.
And, finally, yes, I've heard/read that Carlos Gomez is very fast. I have a two-fold response to that point. Response One is: "So was Alex Sanchez." Response Two is: he had all of nine infield hits last year, and five bunt hits. That's it: fourteen infield hits/bunt hits in 349 plate appearances. Essentially, from an offensive standpoint, we got a very, very, very poor man's Juan Pierre. Out-fucking-standing.
But hey, you say, we freed up some payroll! Hardy is going to get a bump in arbitration, and Gomez won't make nearly as much. And, since we've got our center fielder now (either Gomez on his own or in a righty/lefty platoon with Jody Gerut), we can let Cameron walk, and there's another $10 million! That's, like, $15 million to sign a free agent pitcher, you exclaim emphatically.
And ... who, exactly, do you want to sign? Here's the list. Go ahead, peruse at your leisure. I'll wait. Done yet? After reading that, is there any doubt in your mind that we're signing Doug Davis to a three-year, $30 million contract in the next couple of months? I'll start pouring battery acid on my eyeballs right now.
In the end, what disappoints me the most is what this trade says about next season. Depending on what happens with Kendall, there are potentially three eight-hole hitters in this line-up. I love Escobar, but, at this point in his career, he has to hit seventh or eighth. It would be suicide to plug Gomez (and his career .292 OBP) anywhere in the top half of the line-up. And then there's Kendall. Or Jon Lucroy. Or Angel Salome. Or Mike Rivera. One of those four is going to be in your everyday line-up.
It's altogether conceivable that your 2009 line-up could look something like this:
2. Hart (ugh)
5. McGehee (please trade him) / Gamel (please don't trade him)
I've gone on far too long already, and I don't know what point I'm ultimately trying to make, so I'll end here. This is not the start to the off-season I was hoping for.
(A total aside: Is anyone else concerned about what's going to happen the first time Joe Mauer and J.J. Hardy make eye contact? The Vortex of Beauty might cause the end of the universe.)