Monday, December 20, 2010


This post is not going to be about just how bad Yunieski Bentancourt is. I know, it's tempting to write one so close to acquiring one of the worst players in baseball, but not this post. This going back to one major error the Brewers organization made during last offseason.

Pretty much everyone remembers the trade. The Brewers sent J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Carlos Gomez. Immediately, the were many skeptics of this trade. What was even more disappointing was the way the Brewers handled their excess shortstops they had at the time.

The reason the Brewers were so ready to trade Hardy was the young shortstop waiting in the wings: Alcides Escobar. Escobar, 22 at the time, was just coming off a nice season where he actually hit pretty well. In AAA, Escobar had a pretty impressive .298/.353/.409 line, while playing just about everyday. He was then called up to the majors after J.J. Hardy's demotion to AAA. It seemed like an interesting move considering if Hardy stayed in the minors for the remainder of the Sounds' season, he wouldn't hit free agency until 2011. Hardy stayed down there and would have to wait (until after this season) to hit free agency.

However, the move also did another thing.

Sending Hardy to the minors was heavily criticized as the Brewers were just trying to gain another year of service time. While Hardy was struggling, I think everyone could agree this was the Brewers intended action. Hardy was not happy, but while under team control, what choice did he really have?

What happened that offseason was where the mistake occurred.

Hardy was immediately placed on the trading block. What irritated me about this was the way the Brewers did it. They never said Hardy had no chance to return to the club, but the writing was on the wall. They received offers from the Pirates and Orioles, but ended up deciding to go with Minnesota's offer of Gomez. Someone they thought could solidify centerfield in Milwaukee.

By giving the reigns over to Escobar and trading Hardy, the Brewers forced their hand. During his big league career, Hardy was always an asset to the Brewers. He had consecutive 4.0+ WAR seasons prior to 2009. Even in 2009, despite struggling with the bat, his defense was again incredible, as he was still able to post a 1.4 WAR season.

My question to Doug Melvin is, what was the rush? Hardy was under team control and still pretty cheap. Why start Alcides Escobar's service clock a year early? Hardy could have, and should have remained in Milwaukee in 2010. The correct move would have been to let Escobar get more at bats in AAA, further making him ready once 2011 came. There was no question how much Escobar struggled in 2010. A extra year of experience in AAA could have been the remedy.

If the Brewers would have done this, nothing would have affected yesterday's trade. Escobar would have been sent to Kansas City as part of the package and the Brewers would still have Hardy on the team under one more season of control. How appropriate is it the Brewers are now in NL contention and have two glaring weak spots to go along with a great rotation? Carlos Gomez (CF) was traded for Hardy and Yunieski Bentancourt (SS) now plays in the spot where Hardy would have been. Knee jerk reactions, like the Brewers had last season, lead to mistakes. In baseball, mistakes can be very costly.

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