JJ Hardy has recently become the center of attention lately in regard to trade talks for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Hardy may very well be the "Golden Boy" of Wisconsin sports. He's the player that all the men want to be and all the women want to be with. If you doubt that, take a good listen at Miller Park the next time the starting lineup is announced.
Never in the history of baseball has a career .265 hitter been so adored by fans. To hear some fans talk, you would think that a young Robin Yount was taking the field at short.
I'm sure there are many fans that envision Hardy being a cornerstone of the Brewers along with Ryan Braun for the next several years but to the disappointment of many, that just isn't going to happen.
Right now isn't the time to trade Hardy, but Hardy isn't in the long-term plans for the Milwaukee Brewers.
Doug Melvin's job as Brewers' general manager is to not only make sure the Brewers are successful in 2009 but to make sure they are contenders for the playoffs year in and year out. JJ Hardy simply is not the best option to make that goal a reality.
Hardy is slated to become a free agent after the 2010 season. On the other hand, Alcides Escobar, the Brewers' top minor league prospect, is under team control through at least the 2015 season.
Critics of Escobar will say that he doesn't have the power to be a top shortstop at the major league level. I disagree with that completely. Power is an attribute that is a lot more than just the number of home runs a player hits.
While Escobar likely won't be a home run hitter at any point of his career, he does get a ton of extra base hits. In 60 games in 2009, Escobar has 16 doubles, three triples, and three home runs. That's a slugging percentage of .436, a very respectable number by anyone's standards.
Escobar is most valuable in the field. He has been ready for big league ball on the defensive end for at least a year. He has outstanding range and an absolute rocket for a right arm. If Hardy has a strong arm at short, Escobar has a Herculean arm out there.
Escobar also brings a threat to the table that the Brewers have been lacking this year: the ability to steal a base. He has 22 steals in 27 attempts this year. Hardy has five steals in his fifth year with the Brewers.
With all that being said, Escobar would seem to be a good candidate to be traded for a "big name" pitcher. As I've stated before, the Brewers don't need to make a trade for a top-level "ace". Yovani Gallardo has developed into the ace of the staff. The Brewers need arms to fill out their rotation, not anoint the next CC Sabathia.
Hardy does have value despite his struggles at the plate this season. He has proved that he can hit 20-plus home runs, having done so the past two years. He will also captain the defense of any infield, and instantly make the pitchers on any pitching staff better.
With all that being said, don't look for Hardy to get traded during the season. With Mat Gamel likely to be playing more at third base, it would be very hard to imagine a team battling for a playoff spot with two rookies on the left side of their infield.
It wouldn't be impossible, but all rookies experience growing pains no matter how talented they are. Giving Escobar all of spring training in 2010 to grow into his new spot makes much more sense.
The more likely scenario will see Doug Melvin trading Hardy this winter for either a middle of the rotation pitcher or a quality arm in the bullpen. This will give the Brewers added depth should Manny Parra not figure out how to pitch at a big league level or another arm in a bullpen that will again see some turnover.
JJ Hardy still has the time and talent to be a star in baseball. Unfortunately for all his fans in Milwaukee, he just won't be doing it in a Brewers' uniform.