The Twins recently finalized a deal in which they will send J.J. Hardy and Brendan Harris, and $500,000, to the Orioles for two relief pitching prospects, right-handers Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey. I don't know what the Twins don't like about Hardy, and why they were so against retaining him for another year, but I'm sorely disappointed by the return on this trade.
Despite the negative sentiment coming from the front office regarding Hardy, he was an above average shortstop during his one season with the Twins. While his offensive stats didn't impress anybody, they were only barely below average for his position (wRC+ of 96). And, of course, his defense was tremendous, as it always is. He ranked fifth in the majors among shortstops in UZR (8.1), and fared even better when measured as a rate stat, as he placed second in UZR/150 (12.8) among shortstops with at least 600 innings. This is neither a new insight nor random variation in an unreliable statistic; Hardy's lowest UZR/150 rating in a season is a remarkable +6.6, and calculated for his over 5,000 career innings comes in at +11.
[Edit 12/10/2010 2:30 PM: With FanGraphs just today installing the option for sorting league leaders over multiple years, I figured I'd throw out some more statistics on Hardy's fielding. Since he entered the league in 2005, he ranks first among qualified shortstops in both UZR and UZR/150 by a wide margin. Seeing as how I'm not sure how 'qualified' is determined over multiple years, I changed the minimum innings to 1000 over that time span, which came up with 64 different players. Hardy comes in third in UZR, after Adam Everett and Omar Vizquel, and ranked sixth in UZR/150, behind those two, Mike Aviles, Brendan Ryan, and the top-rated player according to that statistic, none other than Nick Punto.]
What did the Twins pick up in return for Hardy? Jacobson is now a 24-year old who's spent the last three seasons pitching at the two levels of Single-A. While he has posted some solid strikeout numbers (8.3 K/9) and limited his walks (2.78 BB/9), his numbers aren't eye-popping and he has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in his professional career. Additionally, as best as I could tell, he doesn't appear anywhere in the top 20 for Orioles prospects; this site doesn't even mention him as an 'other' when listing their choices, and this site pegs him as the fourth-best right-handed relief pitching prospect in the Orioles' minor league system. Fourth-best initially sounds good, but not with that many qualifiers, and those ones specifically, after it.
Mentions of Hoey as a true prospect are even harder to find, and that's with good reason. Hoey is a 27-year old relief pitcher who's been bouncing between AA and AAA since 2006, with brief--and horrific--major league stints in 2006 and 2007. While his minor league strikeout numbers are gaudy throughout his minor league stops (10.3 K/9 total, so are his walk totals (4.4 BB/9). He's a prototypical bullpen arm, a hard-throwing right-hander, but the Twins already have someone who's similar in that respect but has performed better (Anthony Slama), and they've been hesitant to give him much of an opportunity, so I'm not sure why they targeted Hoey.
So, while Hoey and Jacobson don't bring much value as prospects, they also don't seem to provide much in the way of immediate help. That's what vexes me about this deal: the Twins are trading away Hardy, an important piece for their potential 2011 roster, and not really improving the bullpen much, if at all. The only other explanation would be a salary dump, as Hardy is expected to make between $6 and $7 million, and the two pitchers they received will be receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars at worst. The only part of the deal I do understand is getting rid of $1.25 million of the $1.75 million the Twins stupidly owe to Brendan Harris in 2011.
Hardy's reputation as a defensive wizard is well-deserved, and his hitting is good enough to make him quite a valuable player. And let us not forget the offensive potential Hardy displayed with the Brewerse in 2007 and especially 2008, when he put up a .355 wOBA. Sure, that was two seasons ago, and his recent performance doesn't suggest he can replicate that, but even in his current incarnation he's worth more than the Twins valued him. I was resolved to the fact that the Twins did not want Hardy, but I was hoping they would get a real prospect or preferably some decent Major League ready talent. Instead they got neither and opened up some big question marks in their middle infield.