The Twins made a great step towards improving their 2010 playoff chances today by acquiring shortstop JJ Hardy from the Brewers in exchange for entertaining center fielder Carlos Gomez.
Gomez was a fun player to watch, occasionally unintentionally thanks to his ineptitude at the plate. While he obviously sucked at hitting, he was an extremely elite defensive center fielder and was actually worth a surprising 2.3 WAR (wins above replacement level) in 2008.
Unfortunately his game took a step down this year, and he began to lose playing time thanks to the emergence of Denard Span and Michael Cuddyer staying healthy. After posting a paltry .287 on base percentage and striking out 23% of the time, he was relegated to 4th outfielder status. In an organization with a pretty strong amount of outfield depth, it obviously made sense for the Twins to trade him if they could get a starting player in return.
Which brings us to JJ Hardy. He's coming off a fairly disastrous season with the Brewers, where his performance tanked to a .302 on base percentage and .357 slugging percentage (this is Gomez levels of bad). However, in 2007 and 2008, Hardy was legitimately one of the best shorstops in the game. Thanks to his above average bat (average on base percentage, above average slugging percentage) and exceptional middle of the infield defense, he provided 4.5 WAR and 4.9 WAR in 2007 and 2008 respectively. That was good for 5th in the majors among shorstops in 2007 and 4th in 2008.
Clearly the Twins expect him to bounce back to this level of play, and there's a decent chance he does. Hardy has a pretty good track record of success and it'd be silly to write him off after one bad season. The best part of this trade is that even if he doesn't bounce back, he's still a fine starting shorstop. If he does, he's possibly one of the best 5-10 shortstops in the majors, which is huge for a team that has had an absolute black hole at the position.
To get this commodity, the Twins gave up Gomez, who is basically a 4th outfielder and has not shown he can live up to his "potential". The Twins absolutely crushed this trade, and it makes then one step closer to being a legitimate playoff team in 2010.