Jake Peavy for J.J. Hardy?

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Jake Peavy for J.J. Hardy?
(Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Balking Traditionalism

 

As mentioned in the news today, rumors surfaced about a possible deal between the Brewers and the Padres. Milwaukee's package would include shortstop J.J. Hardy heading to the San Diego's ace, starting pitcher Jake Peavy.

Let’s take some of the complication out of evaluating this hypothetical deal and just look at a straight-up Hardy-for-Peavy swap.

First, let’s take a look at this deal from a win-now, 2009-or-bust perspective. Peavy’s line the last three years is tremendous.

 

Jake Peavy, 2006-2008

2006202.1 IP, 11-14, 4.09 ERA, 9.56 K/9, 2.76 BB/9, 3.51 FIP, 4.0 WAR
2007223.1 IP, 19-6, 2.54 ERA, 9.67 K/9, 2.74 BB/9, 2.84 FIP, 6.2 WAR
2008173.2 IP, 10-11, 2.85 ERA, 8.60 K/9, 3.06 BB/9 3.60 FIP, 2.8 WAR

 

Peavy has consistently shown the ability to get batters out, posting high strikeout rates and a very good strikeout-to-walk ratio.

It’s important to keep in mind that every number here (except for WAR) is not park-adjusted for the pitcher-friendly confines of San Diego's PETCO park. Regardless though, Peavy’s numbers are still impressive.

The thing that worries me is the sharp jump in walks in 2008 combined with a full strikeout less per nine innings. Perhaps these are outliers, but as a prospective buyer, it is cause for concern.

Let’s take a look at some projections:

 

Jake Peavy, 2009

CHONE3.31 ERA, 8.90 K/9, 2.90 BB/9, 3.40 FIP
PECOTA3.17 ERA, 8.78 K/9  2.88 BB/9, 3.44 FIP
ZIPS3.23 ERA, 9.29 K/9, 2.73 BB/9, 3.41 FIP
MARCEL3.22 ERA, 9.00 K/9, 3.04 BB/9, 3.38 FIP

 

The four projection systems seem to agree that Peavy will not return to his insanely good 2007, which saw a great strikeout-to-walk ratio combined with a low home run rate.

Three of the four systems agree the jump in walks will continue, while ZIPS sees a return to '06/'07 levels. PECOTA and CHONE predict a continued drop in strikeouts as well.

Either way, Peavy retains a lot of value, but something more like his 2006 numbers, as opposed to those in 2007, should be expected. If the trade goes down, look for him to be worth about 3.5-4.5 wins in Milwaukee.

J.J. Hardy put together a great season for the Brewers last year, flashing the leather repeatedly while putting up one of the top hitting lines among shortstops in the NL.

Here are Hardy’s numbers from the last two seasons (he was injured in 2006):

 

J.J. Hardy, 2007-2008

2007638 PA, .277 AVG, 26 HR, 80 RBI, .323 OBP, .463 SLG, +3.5 BRAA*, +15 UZR, 4.5 WAR
2008629 PA, .283 AVG, 24 HR, 74 RBI, .343 OBP, .478 SLG, +13.5 BRAA, +8 UZR, 4.9 WAR

*BATTING RUNS ABOVE AVERAGE

 

These are two great, All-Star caliber seasons. Hardy’s value comes from putting plus batting together with plus defense at a premium position.

Assuming Hardy’s defense stays in the +5 to +15 range (in a mere 35 game campaign in 2006, Hardy put up a +6 UZR, which would equate to a +33 season), he only has to be a league average hitter to be a 3 WAR or better player (3.5 WAR last year: Justin Morneau; 3.0 WAR last year: Miguel Cabrera).

Let’s look at Hardy’s offensive projections:

 

J.J. Hardy, 2009

CHONE.278 AVG, .343 OBP, .463 SLG, +11 BRAA
PECOTA.284 AVG, .344 OBP, .459 SLG, +10.5 BRAA
ZIPS.277 AVG, .337 OBP. .479 SLG, +11.5 BRAA
MARCEL.267 AVG, .336 OBP, .459 SLG, +6 BRAA

 

Marcel unfairly judges Hardy based on his injury shortened 2006 season, so we can basically throw it out and focus on the other three projection systems, which are in alomst complete agreement on Hardy’s value.

He’ll be worth somewhere in the +8 to +13 range with the bat. Combine that with his +5 to +15 defensive range and you have a player that is worth 3.3-4.8 wins.

This year, the difference between Hardy and Peavy is basically a wash.

However, the deciding factor with this trade is its effect on the future. Clearly, the Brewers pitching staff is a little weak right now.

The Brewers have a solid base in Yovani Gallardo, Manny Parra, and Dave Bush that will be in place for at least the 2009 and 2010 seasons and be quite affordable, as they are all still in their cost-controlled years.

J.J. Hardy is also in the cost-controlled stage as he still has one of arbitration year left.

The 28-year-old Peavy is due a relatively cheap $8 million in 2009. After this year, a contract extension for three years and $52 million kicks in.

Here’s what we’re looking at as far as cost in this trade:

 

Millwaukee Gives

J.J Hardy 2008 (Age 26, $4.65M) and 2009 (Age 27, likely in the $7M-$10M range, depending on the market)
Money Due: $12M-$15M
Expected Worth: $30M-$45M*
Expected Value: $18M-$30M

*Range roughly based on CHONE projections, including any expected decline.

 

Milwaukee Accepts
Jake Peavy 2009 (Age 28, $8M), 2010 (Age 29, $15M), 2011 (Age 30, $16M), 2012 (Age 31, $17M), 2013 (Age 32, $22M, or $4M buyout)
Money Due: $60M (buyout after 2012), $78M (including 2012)
Expected Worth: $56M-$66M (buyout after 2012), $70-$80M (including 2013)*
Expected Value: (-4)-$6M (buyout of 2012), (-8)-$2M (including 2013)

*Range roughly based on CHONE projections, including any expected decline.

 

This analysis suggests that two years of a cost-controlled Hardy are approximately worth $20-$30 million more than five years of an expensive Peavy.

The problem here is that Peavy will likely decline over the course of this contract and is leaving a pitcher-friendly environment. At this point, Hardy is already worth about as much as Peavy, and is entering his peak years.

It should be obvious that this isn’t a good deal for the Brewers. The fact that the Brewers would also be expected to throw in prospects just puts this deal completely out of the question for me.

The Padres would almost certainly have to throw in a top hitting prospect at a premium position (CF, 3B, 2B) to make this trade work in the Brewers' favor, or to even be properly balanced.

Hopefully, all rumors on this front are false, as Brewers general manager Doug Melvin has suggested over the previous week.

 

Prior year stats/CHONE/ZIPS/MARCEL projections from www.fangraphs.com

PECOTA projections from www.baseballprospectus.com

Contract data from http://mlbcontracts.blogspot.com

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