Sometime before tomorrow's game, J.J. Hardy will be recalled from Nashville and added to the Brewers' active roster. At the time of his demotion, he was hitting .229/.300/.367, and the Brewers had a prospect at shortstop, Alcides Escobar, who was big league ready or close, hitting .298/.353/.409 for Nashville with 42 stolen bases.
The move, though, came at a very interesting time. Before the move, it was assumed Hardy would be eligible for free agency following the 2010 season. The demotion to AAA came just in time to allow Hardy to accumulate 20+ days in AAA before September 1, and that loss of service time means he'll be arbitration eligible for two more seasons, and won't become a free agent until the end of 2011. If the Brewers had waited two extra days, Hardy's stay in AAA would not have been long enough to impact his service time.
Did the Brewers make the right decision by sending Hardy to Nashville when they did? Vote in the poll below, and follow the jump for more on the four arguments.
Here are what I see as the four arguments regarding this decision:
It was the right move because it keeps Hardy under team control for one more season. It's no secret that Hardy will likely be available on the trade market this offseason, as the team transitions to the Alcides Escobar era. Now that Hardy will be under team control for an extra year, the Brewers are actually giving up two seasons of control over Hardy, instead of one, which increases his value. Even if the Brewers decide to keep him, they've got a moderately valuable commodity under team control for an extra season.
It was the right move because the team is better off playing Alcides Escobar. Hardy's value this season came almost exclusively from his defense, and offensively he was a detriment to the team, posting an OPS lower than even his 2005 and 2006 seasons. Since coming to the majors, Escobar has outproduced Hardy offensively (his OPS is 27 points higher), he adds a lot of speed to the lineup and his defense has been similarly solid. Furthermore, getting Escobar major league playing time at this point in his career allows him to learn in a lower pressure environment, and gives the team an opportunity to evaluate what they have going into 2010.
It was the wrong move because Hardy gives the team a better chance to win now. Hardy's true talent level is likely significantly higher than his low slash line this season would suggest. Assuming Hardy was able to take a mental break, make adjustments and revert to his 2007-2008 form, he's a roughly .800 OPS hitter, which is better than all but the most optimistic projections for Escobar. If he was able to turn it around, Hardy's upside is much higher than Escobar's in the short term. And, even as bad as he's been offensively, Hardy's defense makes him a league average or better shortstop overall.
It was the wrong move because sending down an established veteran to slow his arbitration clock is a poor ethical decision. Regardless of how you feel about the talent/potential difference between Hardy and Escobar, most people will agree that Hardy is still a major league caliber player. Keeping him in the minor leagues long enough to prevent him from becoming a free agent in 2010 is unfair to him, and while it's technically legal, it's unethical, could impact the organization's relationship with Hardy and his agent, and could impact how the Brewers are seen by players considering coming to Milwaukee.
So, what do you think?