J.J. Hardy rejoined the Brewers yesterday following a 20-day stint at Triple-A that was just long enough to push back his free agency for an extra season.
While he was gone the team handed his old job to 22-year-old prospect Alcides Escobar and upon his return Hardy admitted that he’s probably not long for Milwaukee:
Not that I want to be traded. That’s not the case at all. But when you hear about two years [before free agency] now, obviously it makes me more valuable in a trade. If that’s what they’re doing, there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.
I think it just kind of makes sense. You’ve got Escobar ready. You’ve been waiting on Escobar for a couple of years now. There’s been all the trade rumors. I guess it’s something I’ll find out or worry about in the off-season.
Hardy strongly denied speculation that he brought on the demotion to Triple-A by refusing a move to third base, calling those rumors “total B.S.” However, he did express a clear desire to remain a shortstop going forward:
Until there’s no other teams out there that like me as a shortstop or like [Escobar] as a shortstop, I think we both want to be shortstops. I see myself as a shortstop, and I’m sure he sees himself as a shortstop. If both of us are going to be in the big leagues, we’ll have to be on separate teams. It’s just a rare situation.
Hardy has always graded out well defensively at shortstop, producing a positive Ultimate Zone Rating in each of his five seasons for a cumulative mark of 11.1 runs above average per 150 games. Beyond that, whether his offense bounces back to pre-2009 levels or this year’s funk is a sign of things to come his bat will obviously be a bigger asset at shortstop (average OPS of .719) than third base (average OPS of .757).
As a 27-year-old shortstop with a good glove who’s hit .268/.325/.445 over the past three seasons Hardy should be a popular trade target this offseason. Look for the Brewers to swap him for some pitching.