Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Brewers shake up roster: Demote Hall, Hardy for EscobarPosted by Evan Brunell
The Milwaukee Brewers imported David Weathers, now they're shaking up their offense by bringing up Alcides Escobar along with Jason Bourgeois and kicking Bill Hall and J.J. Hardy to the curb.
Okay, maybe they aren't exactly shaking up their offense by bringing Escobar in the fold. Escobar, 22, has long been known for his defense as he has an Elvis Andrus-like reputation, if not better. For all of the knocking on Escobar's offense, he isn't all that bad: .298/.353/.409 with an improved eye from recent years. Escobar could be maturing at the plate in front of our very eyes.
Using last year's .328/.363/.434 line, Baseball Prospectus projected a major league equivalent line of .279/.307/.377. At 21 with a flashy glove, that's not a bad line at all. Assuming you get this line out of him, how does he help the Brewers?
You may not think a .279/.307/.377 line is any great shakes, but how about in place of a .229/.307/.367 line? Because that's J.J. Hardy's line on the year; a season in which he has absolutely destroyed his trade value and quite possibly delaying his free agency by another year to 2011. Escobar also has 42 stolen bases on the season, so he could create some problems for opposing pitchers. Escobar's addition will allow the Brewers to transition to more of a manufacturing offense -- anything to get runs on the board and games won.
The Brewers' pitching is in dire straits, so one would think the addition of Escobar behind them will directly impact their fortunes. However, Hardy is an above-average fielder, checking in at a 10.4 UZR/150 with a career 11.5 UZR/150. Errors and range only still has Hardy among the league leaders. Time will tell if Escobar can match that.
The Brewers aren't likely to move Hardy at all: he was roughly a 3.5 WAR player the last three years and can still provide a lot of value to the Brewers -- maybe he plays second or third next year for them, for example. Why would the Brewers consider moving Hardy at the reduced price he would command when he can still fill a need for them and boost his trade value?
It's possible he gets traded in the offseason (Theo Epstein has to be intrigued) but the Brewers won't come off their initial asking demands for him. He's 26, he's experienced success, he's a gifted fielder and he can still be a big part of whatever the Brewers hope to do down the road.
Bill Hall, on the other hand, is done being a part of the Brewers. He was designated for assignment despite being owed roughly $11 million over the remainder of his contract, which ends in 2010 with a 2011 buyout. Hall has been far from a major-league caliber offensive player these recent years although he was a good platoon player against left-handed pitchers as soon as last year.
Hall's saving grace which will land him a spot with another team is his ability to play multiple positions and a history of hitting left-handed pitchers. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Red Sox take a look at Hall as their backup infielder. The person in that role in Boston now is Chris Woodward. Terribly unexciting.
However, for Hall, still only 29, he'll probably pick a place where he can start the remainder of the year and try to rebuild his value for the free agent market. Cincinnati might have an opening at third for the next couple of weeks and then could install him in the outfield. With Alex Rios gone from Toronto, the Jays could offer Hall a full-time job in the outfield. There are no shortage of teams out there that would be willing to give Hall an audition.
The Brewers are certainly trying to get themselves back in the playoff race. If they can't get a starting pitcher off waivers, however, it may be too little, too late.
Evan Brunell is currently editor of Fire Brand of the American League, a Red Sox blog he began in 2003. He also scores games at Fenway Park for MLB. He was the co-founder and president of MVN, an independent sports media web site.