By Emmett Prosser Special to Published Nov 08, 2009 at 9:03 AM
At first glance, Carlos Gomez looks like the kind of young player that the Milwaukee Brewers organization would rather stay away from.

Blessed with outstanding speed and a slick glove, Gomez' strikeout-to-walk ratio is alarming. His career on-base percentage is below .300 and when he arrives for spring training in 2010, the Brewers will be the centerfielder's third stop in four seasons.

But before you look at those numbers and determine that the Gomez for J.J. Hardy trade isn't anything to get excited about, know that General Manager Doug Melvin wasn't just throwing darts at a board on Friday when he acquired Gomez from the Minnesota Twins. With future dollars to play with, Melvin's move makes plenty of sense.

"We'll be more inexpensive at shortstop and centerfield," Melvin said in a conference call. "This will give us some flexibility to go out and get some pitching."

With Hardy off the roster, Gomez in the fold and veteran Mike Cameron not in the plans, Melvin cleared more than $14 million off the books in an attempt to add multiple starting pitchers.

It's no secret that the Brewers are in the market for quality arms and needed to create space in their 2010 payroll. Moving Hardy will help the franchise ignite the pilot light on the hot stove again this winter.

The move also clears up question at shortstop. Top prospect Alcides Escobar is in and Hardy, a Miller Park heartthrob, moves on.

"None of these deals are easy when they go through the system and you go through the store and you see his posters and his jerseys. It's not easy to trade a player like J.J. who is a popular player."

After a forgettable season in 2009 that included a trip to the minors, it was clear that the disgruntled Hardy was not in the Brewers' plans. A true fan favorite during his five years with the Brewers, Hardy was a streaky and often overrated player. He averaged 20 home runs per year in his last three seasons but also hit just .234 with runners in scoring position. He compiled a .325 on-base percentage during that span and hit .258 at home.

T-shirt sales certainly won't be quite as brisk in April and the Brewers will have to replace 35 home runs in their lineup assuming Cameron does not return. But with Gomez, Escobar and a healthy Rickie Weeks up the middle, the defense should be much improved. The additional range should help the confidence of the Brewers' pitching staff.

And though Gomez has been unable to get on base with any consistency in his first three years in the majors, he has gold glove potential and the skill set to leadoff in the future. Like many other young players, Gomez has often widened his strike zone and been too aggressive. He won't turn 24 until next month.

"I'm a big believer in speed guys developing later," Melvin said. "He needs to improve his pitch selection."

What about pitcher selection? Will this trade help net an arm capable of winning 12-15 games?

"You're always looking for pitching," Melvin said. "In free agency, once guys file, I'll try to gauge there interest in coming to Milwaukee. We're open to anybody. We'll continue to look."

Emmett Prosser Special to

Emmett Prosser is a former sports producer at Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Online and has covered the Brewers, Bucks and Marquette basketball in many capacities for 13 years.

Prosser also signed a year's worth of 10-day contracts with the Cleveland Cavaliers' media relations department after graduating from Xavier University so he could get three-point shooting tips from NBA great Mark Price. The son of an English teacher and former basketball coach, Prosser attended Marquette high school.

In his spare time, Prosser enjoys live music and fooling people into making them believe he can play the drums. He also serves on the board of directiors for United Cerebral Palsy.