December 1, 2010 – Let’s talk a little about the JJ Hardy dilemma. I just can’t see any way that the Twins will not tender shortstop JJ Hardy a contract for 2011. Here is my reasoning, first of all there is no guarantee the Twins will sign Tsuyoshi Nishioka and if that scenario should occur, they need Hardy to play short and unless they sign a free agent second baseman to replace Orlando Hudson they need Alexi Casilla to play second. But let’s assume that the Twins do sign Nishioka, so where do they play him? Shortstop is a key position; I just can’t see the Twins going into 2011 with such a huge unknown both in the field and with the stick as Nishioka without some insurance. So leave Hardy at short for at last another season and play Nishioka at 2B where he is probably better suited anyway. Casilla can be the main utility guy and he can play as needed, plus he is a switch hitter who can run, there are many ways to get playing time for Casilla. That buys you time and we can see what kind of a player Nishioka really is and what Casilla can do with more playing time then he had in 2010.
What I don’t understand is why the Twins seem to be so down on Hardy? Hardy is the same player today as he was a year ago when they traded Carlos Gomez their crown jewel from the Johan Santana trade to the Brewers to acquire him. Sure the man was hurt in 2010 but he played great in the field when he was healthy and he has always been a streaky hitter so that should be no surprise. Plus the man has some pop in his bat and they can always use that.
The Twins are a contending team, not an also-ran that can take huge risks and just hope that Nishioka, if he signs, is the player they think he is. Casilla is no sure thing either; he has been given numerous chances in the past and let them slip through his fingers. The safe way to go here is to keep Hardy at short and play Nishioka at 2B. You can always trade Hardy after 2011 and his trade value may be even higher if he can stay healthy and show more power than he did in 2010. It is all about risk here and why take unnecessary risk when you don’t need to. The logical bet here is to play it safe.