Doug Melvin is one step ahead of the game as per usual. J.J. Hardy and the Brewers avoid arbitration and agree to a one year $4.65 million contract for 2009. J.J. is the first of a group of Brewers due for a hefty pay raise to sign a contract for 2009. In past blogs, I have tried to estimate these raises for the sake of figuring payroll numbers and I had J.J. pegged for $5 million. So in my estimation, Doug is coming out ahead so far. Granted it's only $350,000 ahead, but when you're a mall market team like the Brewers, every penny counts.
Over the past two seasons, J.J. has shed the label of "injury-prone" and produced in a big way. How many teams out there would love to have a shortstop capable of 25+ HR and 75+ RBI, all while playing gold glove caliber defense. His defensive numbers have slipped slightly over the past two seasons, but he still plays better than the league average, and his offensive production has more than made up for any defensive miscues.
While I'd love to see J.J. locked up with a multi-year deal (coupled with a move to third or second base), I'll settle for one year deals that avoid arbitration. I realize that the Brewers are probably going to address their 2009 payroll issues before investing multi-year deals in their young core players, but hopefully after the arbitration hearings are over in mid-February, they look in to long term deals, especially for Hardy, Hart, Gallardo and Parra. Maybe wait a year on Gallardo, to see if he can stay healthy for a whole season.