November 6, 2009: Milwaukee Brewers’ General Manager Doug Melvin strokes his well-groomed mustache and contemplates the move he just made. The Ron Swanson lookalike just traded All-Star caliber shortstop, J.J. Hardy, for the Minnesota Twins uber-talented centerfielder Carlos Gomez. At the time, it seemed to some that both teams were “selling low” on their respective players. Before the trade, the 26-year-old Hardy accumulated 11.1 rWAR in five seasons for the Brewers and had an All-Star appearance in 2007. Gomez was younger (23, almost 24) and possessed loud tools, but hadn’t harnessed his ability yet (3 rWAR in three seasons with Twins and Mets).
Flash forward four years and both of these players have solid careers with Hardy averaging 3.7 wins over the last three seasons (struggled in 2010 with the Twins), has two Gold Gloves, another All-Star appearance and a Silver Slugger award. Gomez also struggled in 2010 and had two decent seasons in 2011 and 2012 before making a name for himself this past season hitting .284/.338/.506 with 24 home runs and 40 stolen bases. He also accumulated 8.4 wins, had an All-Star appearance and won a Gold Glove.
This was a trade by two ballclubs looking to fill a specific hole. The Brewers had young Alcides Escobar pegged to be the starting shortstop in 2010, while the Twins had Denard Span ready to take over centerfield. Escobar was only slightly less valuable that season (0.7 rWAR) than Hardy was for the Twins (1.2). Span was more valuable for the Twins (1.5 wins) than Gomez was for the Brewers that season (0.7). Ironically after the 2010 season, Hardy was traded to the Orioles, Escobar traded to the Royals for another shortstop (Yuniesky Betancourt) and Span was traded to the Nationals in 2012.
Both Minnesota and Milwaukee felt they had a surplus of talent at one position and a need at another. After trading away Span and Gomez, the Twins are still trying to figure out who will man the centerfield position. The Brewers were able to find a young superstar shortstop (Jean Segura) by way of the Los Angeles Angels in the Zack Greinke trade.
So why the history lesson?
“…they’ve (Cardinals) inquired about the availability of a shortstop from the Texas Rangers, who have Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar, sources said.” – Jeff Passan, November 10, 2013
This offseason, the Rangers will be looking to unload one of their talented middle infielders for either a corner outfielder, first baseman, starting pitcher or some combination of these three positions. Many baseball fans see that the Rangers have a special unicorn (Jason Parks term) in Jurickson Profar while the Cardinals also have a special unicorn in Oscar Taveras. Both players are young, have high ceilings and would fill a need for the other team. If this was the MLB The Show, this trade would go through easily, but this is real life and there are many risks in making a trade like this or one of its ilk (see above). A “Special Unicorn Trade” failure would essentially guarantee a GM being fired. In this case, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know. The Rangers know Profar and will only trade him for a proven commodity like Stanton or Price.
Cardinals’ fans are hoping a Shelby Miller/Matt Adams package is enough to get either Andrus or Profar. This is wishful thinking on their part as the Texas front office won’t settle for that type of deal for either of these two players. Trading Andrus or Profar is what Baseball Prospectus’ Ben Lindbergh calls a “franchise-altering” move that he doesn’t see the Rangers making. It’s time to let us know what you think. What kind of package would you like to see from the Cardinals in either an Andrus or Profar trade? If somebody (Kinsler, Andrus or Profar) has to go, which one are you willing to part with?