Hardy for Gomez: A Defensive Win-Win

The hot stove just keeps a'burning, as news has come out that the Milwaukee Brewers have dealt shortstop J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins for center fielder Carlos Gomez.

What does this trade mean for the teams involved? First off, it shows teams are very interested in defensive prowess in their players, as both Hardy and Gomez are well renowned for their gloves. But what about their overall value? The Trade Value Calculator has the (approximate) answer!

The Players

From the Milwaukee Brewers, we have the embattled J.J. Hardy. Hardy went through a torturous season in which he saw his wOBA drop from a career best in 2007, to league average mark in 2008, down all the way to a horrendous .292 this season, all according to FanGraphs. Partly as a result of his poor offensive production, the Brewers demoted him in late August, sparking the controversial claims that Hardy was demoted in order to manipulate his service time and allow the Brewers (or another would-be suitor for Hardy's services) to gain an extra year of team control before sending him off to free agency.

At the time, I spoke about Hardy's struggles with BABIP, Hardy's power numbers also suffered a drop, a result of a significantly lowered home run rate. Still, as I mentioned back in the linked article, Hardy was hitting average marks in pretty much every category except BABIP, so one could suspect that a bounce back season is in order for Hardy.

Doing a simple Marcel projection on his offensive numbers, then regressing to the mean of .330 yields a projected wOBA of .328. For this quick estimate, using Hardy's career UZR/150 of 11 runs seems fair. Based on the playing time Hardy saw in 2007 and 2008, projecting 150 games on him does not seem to be a stretch. At that kind of playing time (630 PA), here's what the Calculator says we should expect.

Hardyval_medium

Hardy over the next two years, if we use the 40/60/80% market salary scale for an estimation of arbitration, could be expected to yield $10.5M in surplus value, not including any free agent compensation picks.

What about his counterpart in the deal? Carlos Gomez was once the prize of the Johan Santana trade from the Twins to the New York Mets, though most analysts say that neither the crown jewel or the entire bundle was worth Santana. Gomez began playing full time in center field last season for the Twin and was up and down. On the one hand, Gomez's defense was stellar. UZR measured Gomez at around 16 runs above average in 154 defensive games at the position, an absolutely stellar mark. This year, he continued the trend, posting around seven runs above average in 108 defensive games, splitting time with the plethora of Twins outfielders.

This would have all been well and good, if not for the other aspect that position players often have to do, the hitting. Gomez proved to be a terrible offensive player last year, posting a .294 wOBA according to FanGraphs. And he did no better in 349 PA this year, recording a .277 wOBA. Gomez walked less than the average player (career BB% 5.0%) and had no pop in his bat (career adjusted ISO .088). Furthermore, he's shown a tendency to strike out far more than a no-patience contact hitter ever should (career K% 21.9%)

For Gomez, I did a similar Marcels projection for his offense and on his UZR defense, regressing 100 defensive games to a mean of 0. For offense, I have Gomez projected at a .290 wOBA. After doing the projection/regression of his defense, Gomez comes out to a +10 runs / 150 defensive games. Giving Gomez the type of playing time he received in 2008 as a starter (approximately 4 PA per game, like a 7th hitter in the NL) and projecting him at 150 games and 600 PA, the calculator shows this.

Gomezval_medium

That value does drastically underestimate his defense from 2008, when he was a 2.3 WAR player according to FanGraphs.

Conclusion

Even at the reduced level of production that Gomez is projected at, the years of control give him a slight edge in terms of value over J.J. Hardy. The time Hardy spent in the minors this year is going to help Minnesota recuperate some of the value lost by sending a decent piece to the Brewers. Overall, I think both teams will end up happy with the players they have acquired. I am almost certain that the Brewers' and Twins' pitchers will approve.

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