J.J. Hardy homered for Triple A Nashville on Saturday night, going 1-for-4 with a walk in his first start since being demoted. While he looks to recalibrate his swing and get back on the track that made him an All-Star, an interesting storyline may potentially be developing.
As reported when Hardy was sent down on Wednesday, if Hardy stays in the minors for at least 20 days, he will fall short of the required number of days on the active roster to get credit for a full service year. If that were the case, the Brewers would control Hardy through the 2011 season, not 2010. This could have a huge effect on Hardy’s future with the club, but much more importantly, it could also have a huge effect on his trade value.
The prevailing wisdom was that Hardy’s a prime candidate to get
traded this offseason. With Alcides Escobar waiting in the wings and
Hardy heading into his final year of arbitration, most expected Hardy
to get dealt for a solid starting pitcher.
The only problem is that
Hardy went out and basically hit like Jason Kendall with power this
year, effectively killing any chance of him bringing back a #2-type
starter or a high-upside prospect as originally anticipated. Now, the
Brewers would be lucky to get much more than a #3 or #4 starter for
him, and they’d likely have to add more pieces in a trade like that.
If the Brewers had control of Hardy for two more years instead of just
one, it would obviously give his trade value a much-needed boost. With
teams looking to save as much cash as possible due to the recovering
economy, two years of J.J. Hardy — especially if they think he can
return to being an .800 OPS shortstop — would likely be a lot more
appealing than signing a free-agent stopgap that’s likely seen better
days. Hardy being under team control for two years would also get them
a better package in a deal for obvious reasons — teams would be more
likely to part with good talent if they knew they’d have him for more
than one season.
Adding to the storyline is that Hardy’s 20-day deadline will fall on
September 2, meaning if he isn’t called up with the rest of the
September 1st call ups, it’ll be pretty obvious what the Brewers are
doing. At that point, you’ll likely have a pretty pissed off agent
filing a grievance alongside the player’s union. That type of thing
gets your organization a bad reputation around the league, and has a
negative effect when it comes to potential free agents coming to a town
that already has trouble luring in impact players.
Doug Melvin obviously has a difficult decision to make, and it’s hard
to tell what he’ll end up doing. With Hardy struggling as much as he’s
been this year, though, you’d think he would’ve been sent packing weeks
ago if this was purely about service time. Even with Escobar playing
well since his call-up, it’ll be a surprise if Hardy isn’t brought back
up on September 1st.