Thursday, October 8, 2009

J.J. Hardy: Make it Happen, Rizzo

Yesterday, Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin said this about 2007 All-Star shortstop J.J. Hardy:
Asked if there was any way to keep both rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar and former starter J.J. Hardy on the roster, Melvin said, "That would be very difficult."

In other words, bye-bye Hardy. Melvin told me that Hardy's trade value did diminish somewhat with his poor season but added, "There are still teams looking for a shortstop. He's a good player who just had a bad year. J.J. will bounce back."
Hardy in 2007 and 2008 was one of the top five shortstops in all of baseball. His fielding is excellent, and with 50 homers in two years, he showed exceptional power for a middle infielder.

No doubt, he had a really down year in 2009. In large part, that was a matter of bad luck as his BABIP fell to .264, well below his career .280 rate (including 2009) and way below the 2009 NL average of .299.

He also saw his ISO power fall to .128, compared to his career rate of .166. That's a big drop in raw power. And his strikeout rate jumped to 20.5%, compared to 15.8% career. If a 26-year-old's power and contact rates are both slipping, that means there's a real problem with the hitter's approach (or an injury). His walk rate actually rose to 9.4% from 8.3%, but regardless, he didn't hit very well this year.

On the other hand, in his worst year, he was still a 1.4 wins above replacement player (Guzman's '09 WAR was 0.9 for comparison).
His minor league stint was an act of brazen service time manipulation by the Brewers, but whoever acquires him will be the beneficiary, as he spent just enough time in Indianapolis to push back his eligibility for free agency until after the 2011 season.

He had little nagging back and shoulder issues that couldn't have helped. And he's going into his age 27 season, historically the age when a player peaks. In '07 and '08, he was worth 4.5 and 4.9 wins above replacement, a good bit better than anyone on the Nationals not named Zimmerman.

At worst, he'll give Rizzo the ace fielder he's looking for. And surely he's a better option than Jack Wilson or Adam Everett.

So what are the Brewers looking for? Pitching, of course. They have at least two big holes in their rotation, and they can't afford to go after the John Lackeys or Randy Wolfs of this off-season's free agent market.

The Nationals have one guy who could be a good fit for the Brewers, both in terms of need and means: John Lannan. I'm going to get a reputation for hating Lannan, and I don't, but if you could trade straight-up a guy who's been worth 2.8 WAR over the last two seasons for a guy who's been worth 10.8 over the last three, you do it. Forget whether you think Lannan's been pitching over his head or not.

That might not be enough, but if this deal could be made it would be the best buy-low, sell-high deal the Nationals ever made.

Beyond that, the Brewers could use a center fielder, because Mike Cameron is a free agent. Second base is an issue, since Felipe Lopez is a free agent, and do you really go with Rickie Weeks again? They also need a catcher--Jason Kendall's a free agent, and he stinks anyway.

J.J. Hardy for Jesus Flores? Yes. J.J. Hardy for Cristian Guzman? Hell, yes, although Guzman's price isn't right, and no team is likely to trade for him without ever even seeing him play second base. Maybe Flores and Justin Maxwell? Or Flores and Roger Bernadina or Ian Desmond or Danny Espinosa? All those would be good deals for the Nationals.

We also have a plethora of C-level pitching prospects we could offer: Brad Meyers, Aaron Thompson, Ross Detwiler, Craig Stammen, Marco Estrada... All these guys should be on the table and of at least some interest to the Brewers.

Finally, we could take a bad contract off their hands, and the $12.5 million they owe Jeff Suppan for 2010 is pretty bad. I don't care if Suppan never even shows up in DC. If that's the price we pay to get Hardy, that's the kind of deal we should be happy to make, leveraging our big market resources to pluck value from small market teams. And heck, since it appears we're in the market for a crappy veteran anyway, Suppan's no worse than, oh, Livan Hernandez.

Make it happen, Rizzo.


Anonymous said...

I sure agree with you about Hardy--there has been all sorts of comment in the baseball blogosphere about what a good pickup he would be (which might have the effect of raising his price).

You didn't address the question of what to do with Desmond if the Nats do get Hardy. I may be higher on Desmond than you are, but I do agree with you that he has yet to prove he can be a regular contributor at a major league level. He's not going to be able to prove (or disprove) that either in Syracuse or sitting on the Nationals bench. The best thing, if the Nats can get Hardy, would be to unload Guzman, either for Hardy or someone else, and let Desmond play second (which he might have to do eventually anyway if Espinosa pans out). Unfortunately, considering that the Nats would likely have to pay a BIG chunk of Guz's salary just to get him off their hands, this is unlikely to happen.

Steven said...

Desmond could be the utility guy. He's not so great that you can't upgrade over him.

estuartj said...

Guzman and Stammen for Hardy and Pussan. Saves MIL at least $4mil not including the difference between Hardy's post arbitration salary and Stammen's league minimum. If Stammen is N/A then maybe Balester (more potential upside) or JD Marin/Shairon Martis and a prospect (Cory VanAllen or comparable).

Ian Desmond goes to 2B or utility role if they acquire another 2Bman via trade or FA.

I still see the primary trade bait on the team being Josh Willingham, with decently poor D and a lively bat, but most importantly 2 more seasons under team control, he should draw a solid return (Miguel Montero of ARI is a favorite) and we have several workable LF/RF options in house to replace him (J-Max and Bernadina in RF with Dukes to LF?).

If Rizzo has as much a infatuation with former players as JimBow did at least its better to be obsessed with ARI vs CIN player! Maybe he has the personal relationship with Brandon Webb to lure him to WAS if ARI declines his option? We can hope...

estuartj said...

Suppan not Pussan, sorry.

Ben said...

I sort of wish he could make Alcides Escobar happen. But it never will.

Hardy's UZR has been in slight decline for three years. I wonder if he isn't about to be a Guzman for a New Generation.

Harper said...

You do hate Lannan. Doesn't mean it isn't a good deal, though.

Problem is making that agree with Kasten's aversion to free agent pitching. With Zimmermann out for the year losing Lannan leaves the Nats in a nearly unthinkable position assuming the Nats don't sign anyone.

Anonymous said...

How is Ross Detwiler a C- level prospect? He had a solid year in AA and AAA. Look at his big league numbers with the geeky advanced stats you usually use. Look at his FIP in the big leagues, it was not that far off from Tommy Hanson.

estuartj said...

Chris Needham says I'm an idiot for thinking Guzman/Stammen for Hardy/Suppan was doable.

Ben said...


Calling you stupid is a bit rough. Calling you optimistic less so.

Anonymous said...

JJ Hardy = Kearns in 3 years? We know this whole return to the norm has major is not dice.

Milwaukee does not make bad personnel decisions. The Nats do.

hoo said...

Keith Law just had a blog on Detweiler rediscovering his form. He thinks Det can be a solid 4 so the idea of him as a C level, especially given his age, is a bit off.

Steven said...

A pitcher who could be a solid #4 is a C prospect.

Steven said...

Guzman/Stammen for Hardy/Suppan isn't credible because the salary advantages for Milwaukee aren't enough.

Hardy/Suppan for Stammen/Flores or Stammen/Detwiler are more realistic. Still not deals I would do if I was Melvin, but a lot of people didn't think the Marlins would ever do Olsen and Willingham for Smolinski/Dean/Bonifacio.

Steven said...

Since we're using Sickels's lingo, I thought it would be helpful to remind everyone that he called Detwiler a B-minus. I referred to Detwiler as a C-level (meaning C-plus, C, or C-minus), because I think his stock fell a bit this year, and I think in the next handbook he'll be a C or C-plus. Here's what Sickels said in August in his top 20 in review (the grade is the old grade, the comments are August comments on how the player did this year):

4) Ross Detwiler, LHP, Grade B-: 2.97 ERA with 62/24 K/BB in 67 Double-A and Triple-A innings. Overmatched in 10 major league starts (6.40 ERA, 33/22 K/BB in 52 innings, 69 hits) but will get more chances.

Regardless, the difference between a B-minus and a C-plus isn't enough for anyone to get in a tizzy about.

sid bluntley said...

rather than Hardy, I would like to see them bring Placido Palanco in - I think he is a free agent. Or how about swinging a deal for Uggla?

Ben said...

Hey Steven

The Padres just released Hill. It's not too late to give him that second chance.

Anonymous said...

Detwiler is not close to a C- level prospect at all. How could you say his stock fell this year when he had a disappointing season last year and a breakout season this year. Tell me how many expected him to have as good of a season as he has so far? He had a great stint in AA and AAA. In the big leagues, he was competent. What amazes me is that you use your "advanced" stats to advance your agenda when it suits, but when it doesn't like in the case of Detwiler, you completely ignore. Look at how his FIP is way ahead of his ERA or that Tommy Hanson was not that much better than Detwiler according to FIP. When was the last B- prospect who fell a whole letter grade after having a 3 ERA in the minors and a 3.89 FIP in the big leagues after a disappointing season in A ball?

Seriously, you are losing your credibility with statements like that.

Steven said...

I never said he was a C-minus. I said I think he's a C, but didn't specify C-plus, C, or C-minus.

John Sickels, one of the most respected scouting guys out there, called him a B-minus at the start of the season. Keith Law said a couple weeks back that he sees Detwiler's ceiling as a #4 starter.

So if you think he's "not close to a C," not even a C-plus, then you're arguing with people who have a lot more credibility than I do.

Regarding the stats you cite, Detwiler is a great example of a case where FIP is really not very reliable. It's doesn't regress for HR/FB rate, which isn't a repeatable skill, and Brad Lidge has so effectively demonstrated this year. Detwiler's HR/FB rate this year was 3.7%. It'll regress over time to about 11%.

xFIP is a version of FIP that adjusts for HR/FB rate, and Detwiler's xFIP was 4.82. tRA is another composite stat that does a similar measure as FIP (but it's scaled to RA, not ERA), and his tRA was 5.33.

Really, the reason his stock didn't rise this year in my mind is because he showed declining bat-missing ability. Ks per nine were 7.6 in AAA and just 5.11 in the bigs. This is a function of his ability to command only the fastball and curve. Even if you're a lefty who can touch 95, that's not enough to thrive.

We'll see, I hope you're right.