…But heck, it’s an off-day and it's on my mind. Over at Baseball Prospectus, my colleague John Perrotto reports that Twins shortstop J.J. Hardy remains a leading candidate to be non-tendered and thereby become a free agent. As I’ve previously written here, the mercurial Hardy would be a handy pickup for the Yankees, even with Derek Jeter a lock to return.
Hardy turned 28 in August. Jeter will turn 37 in June. As you have undoubtedly heard, he’s coming off of the worst offensive season of his career and his glove is deader than disco. Yes, he will be pursuing 3,000 hits next year, but he only needs 74 safeties to pass that milestone, so he needn’t play every day to get there. More to the point, he probably shouldn’t play every day. He could start often, certainly, take some turns at designated hitter as well, and spend the season making a gentle transition into elder statesman/400 at-bats territory.
Hardy would also benefit from regular time off, as he’s often been hurt in his career. That flaw aside, he remains an above-average bat for his position at a time when baseball is starved for such players, though you have to look closely to see it. Hardy hit only .268/.320/.394, but he was hurt during the first half. After roughly a month off, he came back on July 3 and hit .302/.356/.436 the rest of the way, .333/.376/.510 away from the difficult Target Field.
Ideally, Hardy would be willing and able to work out at a few other positions so he could take the roster spot of a non-utilitarian utility player like Ramiro Pena. I have no idea if that would be the case, as he has never played anywhere other than shortstop in his major- or minor-league career. Still, even if that is not the case, Hardy would be an important signing. The Yankees need an insurance policy if Jeter continues to age. See that "if Jeter continues to age" there? That’s a completely ridiculous thing to say. His production may fluctuate a bit in the coming years, with some spells that look like classic Jeter and some that look worse than this year, but let’s not mince words. He will continue to age because, damn it, that’s just the way things are. Both he and the Yankees will have to make some concessions to that, and the latter must be prepared, so that if Jeter hits .220 with the range of a Gutzon Borglum monument, or if he simply pulls something and is gone for two months because that’s what older players do (see Pettitte, Andy), they are ready to replace him with someone a little more lively than Ramiro Pena.
Grabbing an above-average insurance policy is just common sense given Jeter’s season and his age. One of the older sayings of our charming Western Civilization is "forewarned is forearmed." Having seen Jeter’s 2010, the Yankees couldn’t be more forewarned if Jeter’s birth certificate appeared in centerfield writ in letters larger than the George Steinbrenner monument. Adding a player like Hardy isn’t disloyalty to Jeter, it’s not treason to #2, it’s just common sense.