The Milwaukee Brewers traded J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins last week for center field prospect Carlos Gomez. Today, Dejan Kovacevic reported that the Pittsburgh Pirates offered closer Matt Capps to the Brewers for Hardy, before Milwaukee traded Hardy to the Twins.
I wrote a few weeks ago on the OBN forum that I felt Capps for Hardy would have been the perfect trade. Both players were coming off of down years, both players had two years of arbitration remaining, and both players were likely to cost the same amount over the final two years.
The Pirates, at the time, had Joel Hanrahan, Evan Meek, Jesse Chavez, and Steven Jackson as right handed relief options in the bullpen. The Pirates could have gotten more value from Hardy than they could have from Capps, especially with a replacement option like Hanrahan.
Milwaukee, on the other hand, had Alcides Escobar at shortstop, which meant they would have seen more value if Capps rebounded, than they would have if Hardy rebounded. Capps would have made a good setup man for Trevor Hoffman, who Milwaukee brought back as their closer. However, Milwaukee obviously felt their need in center field was more pressing, and traded for Gomez. You may remember Gomez as the center piece of the Johan Santana trade two years ago.
I wonder if the Pirates would have still traded for Akinori Iwamura if they were able to land Hardy? That would have been a nice middle infield, especially if Iwamura returns to 100 percent, and if Hardy bounces back. I guess we can chalk it up as something that will never happen, but it does raise a question: will the Pirates upgrade over Ronny Cedeno?
After the Iwamura trade, Neal Huntington said that the Pirates would look for upgrades, but that they were fine if the middle infield was Iwamura/Cedeno. After looking at the free agents available, the only guys I’d consider a major upgrade would be Miguel Tejada and Orlando Cabrera, and the Pirates aren’t signing one of those two. Jack Wilson would also be an upgrade, but I’m not sure the upgrade would be worth the extra money Wilson would cost over Cedeno. I would think that money would be put to better use elsewhere.
I’ve seen Khalil Greene mentioned in several forums. Over the last two seasons Greene has really struggled, with a .209/.264/.342 line and 16 homers in 559 at-bats, or a homer every 35 at-bats. The power is nice, but the average is horrible, and the on-base percentage doesn’t justify that. Greene’s 2004-2007 numbers looked better, with a .256/.313/.446 line, and 72 homers in 1943 at-bats, or a homer every 27 at-bats. However, let’s compare the 2004-2007 Greene to the following player:
Greene: .256/.313/.446, 27 AB/HR in 1943 AB
Player A: .258/.307/.394, 31 AB/HR in 155 AB
Player A is Ronny Cedeno in his time with the Pirates last year. 155 at-bats is a very small sample size, but this is more about putting Greene’s numbers in to perspective. Greene had a great rookie season in which he challenged Jason Bay for the Rookie of the Year award. Since then he’s shown power, but not much else. In all honesty, I started writing about how Greene would be an interesting option, until I noticed how similar his numbers were to Cedeno after the trade. Cedeno is also younger, which means he has a better chance of improving on those numbers.
Unless the Pirates find a player via trade, I have doubts that they’ll be upgrading over Cedeno in 2010. One option that would be intriguing would be seeing if Kansas City would deal Mike Aviles. Aviles struggled in 2009, with a .183/.208/.250 line in 120 at-bats, but had a great year in 2008, hitting for a .325/.354/.480 line in 419 at-bats, with ten homers. He had Tommy John surgery in August, but is aiming to be ready by Spring Training. The Royals need a catcher, and have Yuniesky Betancourt and Alberto Callaspo in the middle infield, so perhaps the Pirates could deal some of their catching excess (Jason Jaramillo or Robinzon Diaz) to buy low on Aviles.