That didn’t take long at all.
Just days after missing out on a potential deal for infielder Akinori Iwamura, the Twins made a huge splash by acquiring All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for outfielder Carlos Gomez.
Hardy, 27, will immediately take over as Minnesota’s starting shortstop and figures to improve the infield defense exponentially and add some right-handed pop to the lineup.
Twins fans—myself included—have been clamoring for the club to make a deal for Hardy since midseason when Hardy lost playing time, and was eventually demoted to Triple-A, in favor of top-prospect Alcides Escobar.
Today, we all got our wish.
Hardy, a second-round draft pick in 2001, is one of the game’s best defenders at shortstop and has proven capable of putting up solid power numbers in the past.
Hardy hit an impressive .277 with 26 homers and 80 RBI in 2007 and .283 with 24 homers and 74 RBI in 2008, respectively.
That success didn’t carry over, however, as he slumped badly in 2009 hitting a career-low .229 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs.
His season-long slump eventually got him demoted in August.
Milwaukee’s decision to demote Hardy when they did was a big suspect as it left Hardy exactly one day short of the service time requirement to qualify for a full season in the Majors.
As a result his free agency was pushed back by a full season. Despite the questionable tactic, no grievance was ever filed by Hardy or his agent.
As such, Minnesota will own the rights to Hardy through the end of the 2011 season. One would expect the club to try and lock him up to a long-term deal before then to buy out his arbitration years and perhaps a year or two of free agency.
Most expected the Brewers to seek pitching in return for Hardy, as the Brewers’ most glaring need this offseason is bolstering a rotation that proved thin beyond young ace Yovani Gallardo.
Acquiring Gomez, however, allows Milwaukee to let incumbent centerfielder, Mike Cameron leave as a free agent. The club can then use the money freed up by Cameron to add a starter via free agency.
Gomez, 23, was a major component of the Johan Santana trade two winters ago and now finds himself with his third big league club. He won’t bring much offense with him to Milwaukee, but his ability to flash the leather is unquestioned.
He is eligible for arbitration this winter as a Super Two player, but will still come cheaper than keeping Hardy or Cameron on the roster. Additionally, Gomez remain under club control through 2013.