Is Hardy a Non-Tender Candidate?

A bit of doom and gloom in Buster Olney’s most recent blog post for ESPN — with a wave of young stars constantly raising the bar in arbitration cases, some of Olney’s sources maintain that players are starting to get more through arby hearings than they would get on the open market. The result? We could see an unusually high number of players non-tendered this winter.

The ESPN Insider pay wall hits you before you can read more on the specifics, but according to MLB Trade Rumors, one of the players Olney targets is none other than J.J. Hardy.

We know the story with Hardy. He could never get into gear this season, missing that patented month-long hot streak that had guided him to some pretty impressive numbers the previous two years. He was sent down for 20 days, putting him under team control for an additional year. He was shopped on the trade market, but either Doug Melvin was asking for too much or other GMs were offering too little. Alcides Escobar comes up and plays well enough to establish himself as the number one shortstop on the depth chart heading into 2010.

Hardy made $4.65 million to hit .229 in 2009, and he’ll be due a small raise this offseason. No wonder people think the arbitration system is broken.

Dave Bush has been talked about as a potential non-tender candidate, but what happens if Melvin continues to have problems dealing Hardy in the offseason? Would the Brewers seriously consider non-tendering him, as Olney suggests? Or is this just a case of a national writer taking a look at his stats, taking a look at his salary, and determining that some fat needs to be cut?

From the Brewers’ point of view, it hardly makes sense to let Hardy go for nothing. We’re talking about a guy who was among the NL leaders in OPS for shortstops when he had everything going. He plays very good defense. He’s a former All-Star, and unlike Corey Hart, probably deserved his appearance.

To put it simply, it’d be stupid to not get something for him. Are you going to have to take lesser value if you trade him? Probably. But getting 75 cents for the dollar would be better than getting nothing for him.

The only way non-tendering Hardy makes sense is if you use that total of nearly $5 million to invest towards truly improving the starting rotation. With this crop of potential free agent pitchers, you’re probably not going to get your money’s worth. You’re better off trying to trade Hardy for young talent. If you can’t make a deal, you keep him through spring training and wait for an injury to pop up somewhere else in the league, creating a need for a shortstop.

It would make for an awkward situation, and Hardy apparently doesn’t appreciate having to work for his spot, but it would be better for the club in the long run.

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