Twins Acquire SS Hardy from Brewers
By JON KRAWCZYNSKI and CHRIS JENKINS, AP
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Milwaukee Brewers finally gave J.J. Hardy the change of scenery he had been expecting and reunited the unhappy shortstop with an old friend in the process.
The Brewers traded Hardy to the Minnesota Twins on Friday for speedy outfielder Carlos Gomez.
Hardy winds up with the Twins' All-Star catcher, Joe Mauer, a teammate on the U.S. national teams in 2000 and 2003. The two still chat regularly when they see each other, and Hardy said the move could help him move on from a forgettable season.
The 27-year-old Hardy batted a career-low .229 with 11 home runs and 47 RBIs in 115 games for the Brewers in 2009. He was demoted to Triple-A in August.
"I definitely knew I was going to get traded once I got sent down," Hardy said. "Once I got the call this morning, I was pretty excited about it."
The Twins think a fresh start can help Hardy regain the form that made him one of the league's most promising young shortstops. A 2007 All-Star, he is just the third shortstop in Brewers' history to hit more than 20 home runs in a season twice, along with Robin Yount and Jose Hernandez.
"It's one of those seasons for me that I completely don't want to think about it anymore. I was happy when it ended," Hardy said. "It was just kind of a nightmare year for me."
He has a career batting average of .262 with 75 home runs and 265 RBI in 571 games.
"He's got a strong arm. He's got good range and he's got power," Twins general manager Bill Smith said. "He had a bad year this year. We've talked to a lot of people and we have a lot of opinions in our organization. We're all on board that this was a good acquisition for us."
Hardy will replace free agent-to-be Orlando Cabrera, a midseason acquisition who helped the Twins edge Detroit for the AL Central title. But Cabrera just turned 35 and is not a long-term solution.
Hardy spent 20 days in the minors, costing him a year of service time and therefore delaying his eligibility for free agency until after the 2011-12 season.
"To give up Carlos Gomez, and four years of control with the player, it's important to get somebody that we're going to have for more than a year," Smith said.
Gomez, who turns 24 in December, batted .229 with three home runs and 28 RBIs in 137 games with the Twins last season. But he was stuck in a role as a defensive replacement in a crowded Twins outfield that included Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, Delmon Young and Jason Kubel.
Gomez was supposed to be the crown jewel of a trade with the Mets two years ago that sent ace Johan Santana to New York. But he never developed the consistency the Twins were looking for.
"Last year, I can't do nothing about it, because I didn't play every day," Gomez said. "You don't play every day, it's tough."
The move gives Twins manager Ron Gardenhire a more defined outfield rotation and will allow Gomez to play every day in Milwaukee, replacing center fielder Mike Cameron, who will become a free agent after two productive seasons.
"This was a good fit," Smith said. "We had one too many outfielders and they had one too many shortstops, so it worked out for both teams."
Brewers GM Doug Melvin said Gomez's speed would add a new dimension to the Brewers' offense, and his defensive skills would provide a boost to a pitching staff that struggled last season.
"Carlos brings to our club great speed, athleticism and energy at a position that we needed to fill," Melvin said.
The Brewers' biggest need was pitching going into the offseason, and Hardy was one of the most logical pieces Melvin could have used to try to pry a pitcher away from another team.
"In the end, there wasn't anybody that matched the ability of Carlos Gomez," Melvin said.
The development of highly regarded shortstop prospect Alcides Escobar made Hardy expendable, though Melvin said the decision to cut ties with the popular Hardy wasn't easy.
"If he'd had a big year, we might have been looking at a trade of Escobar," Melvin said.
Despite Gomez's speed, Melvin said Rickie Weeks would likely be the team's leadoff hitter next season.
The Brewers also declined a $3.7 million option on right-hander David Weathers on Friday, buying him out for $400,000. They likely will have to turn to the free agent market to help their struggling staff.
Melvin said he considers right-hander John Lackey "head and shoulders" above other available free agent pitchers, but wouldn't say whether the Brewers would be serious bidders for the Los Angeles Angels ace.
Melvin said the Brewers might have to gamble on a pitcher with a history of injury problems, such as left-handed free agent Mark Mulder.
"We'll still focus on pitching, and see if we can improve," Melvin said.
Jenkins contributed from Milwaukee and AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
Received 11/06/09 06:52 pm ET