The 2010 Twins need a shortstop. The 2009 Twins had five outfielders, if you include Jason Kubel in that mix.
So trading for J.J. Hardy, a point of view espoused by Section 220 at about this time last November, is a good move. Hardy struggled significantly this season (even earning a several week stint in the minors, which the Twins never dared to do with Gomez) but has an offensive track record from the previous two years and good enough defense (He led National League shortstops in revised zone rating this season despite his problems) to make Hardy-for-Carlos Gomez a worthwhile risk.
This means the Twins are willing to settle for a second-best defensive outfield (compared with Gomez in center and Denard Span at one of the corners) and that those who wanted the veteran leadership of Orlando Cabrera on next year’s roster will be disappointed. The Cabrera issue is really a nonstarter, however, because his defense was flashy but suspect and, for the spectacular flashes he sometimes provided, that was a .313 on-base percentage he ended up with during his Minnesota time. And based on these numbers, you couldn’t find an AL shortstop who played worse defense.
In the cold light of the hot stove, OC was short-term salve. We should be happy for that and wish him well.
The Twins have also decided, for now, that Delmon Young has a better chance than Gomez to be the everyday impact player they imagined with making those trades. You can still have a good debate over that one, and the Twins could have come to that conclusion as a convenient truth after testing the market for both players.
As for Gomez, I’ll miss him. I loved what he brought to the outfield — save for the maddening bunny hops that increasingly became part of his throwing motion — and the good at-bats when he figured out which of his tools to use at the plate. But for a guy in his sixth year of professional baseball, there were just too many times when he didn’t do the right thing in all facets of the game.
If the Twins are to regain their reputation for doing the little things right — a phrase that still gets misapplied to them in the national media — guys like Gomez will not be part of the solution. Given a chance, his skills will probably improve in the lesser National League. Likewise, Hardy shouldn’t be expected to return to his 2007-08 numbers. But numbers in the neighborhood would be good.
The Twins now have a shortstop they can pen into the lineup whose name isn’t Punto. They still need a third baseman. (That would be free agent Chone Figgins, if you want to know how know I really feel.) Figgins and a “Top Two” starting pitcher are the gifts I think fans deserve from Twins management as we all move across downtown to Target Field.
Another reason I’m glad to see this deal is that it speaks to an aggressive stride that Bill Smith appeared to find as last season wore on — when Cabrera, Carl Pavano, Jon Rauch and Ron Mahay were brought in. Each played a role in the run to the AL Central title, with Rauch and Mahay having a good chance to be factors in the coming season. The market for Pavano is uncertain, but I’d like to see the Twins involved as middle-of-the-rotation prices. Five from among Free Agent/Blackburn/Baker/Slowey/Pavano/Duensing is a rotation that I’d be fine with.
Here’s the best current list of potential free agents that I could find today. ESPN’s web site has a free agent tracker that hasn’t yet been updated with 2009 names.
Finally, there’s some below-the-radar good from this deal in that it reunites Gomez with ex-FSN chatterer Telly Hughes. That duo combined for an interview I never get tired of watching. I hope they get encore opportunities in Milwaukee.