First things first: treat this with a grain of salt for now. The fact that the Post-Gazette reported that the Bucs offered Matt Capps for J.J. Hardy but didn't mention that the Pirates and Brewers also discussed a Ryan Doumit-for-Hardy swap makes this report from FOXSports.com seem a bit strange to me. Nonetheless, it's interesting:
It's becoming very clear that Ryan Doumit is available on the trade market.
The Pirates were engaged in talks with the Brewers earlier this offseason about a trade that would have sent Doumit to Milwaukee for shortstop J.J. Hardy, major league sources said Friday.
But Milwaukee preferred to use Hardy as the trade chip to acquire a starting center fielder, Carlos Gomez, from the Twins.
Hardy and Doumit have comparable contracts, which would have aided a deal.
The Brewers have a couple of decent catching prospects in Jon Lucroy and Angel Salome who are both fairly near the majors, but their current starter is Jason Kendall, who has nothing left offensively. Dealing for Doumit might have made some sense for them.
I'd certainly be open to trading Doumit if I were in charge, but it wouldn't be my top priority. Doumit had a dismal season overall in 2009 but hit very well in September after seemingly recovering from the wrist injury that probably dragged down his numbers before that. Dealing Doumit for Hardy would have been fine, but it would have been a lateral move--both are very talented players coming off poor seasons. Hardy might be the more talented of the two, and he's certainly the more likely of the two to stay healthy, but that's a double-edged sword--Hardy doesn't have an injury to explain why he hit so badly last year.
If the Pirates had traded Doumit for Hardy, they would have essentially been trading out Ronny Cedeno (who would move to the bench if Hardy became a Pirate) for Jason Jaramillo. Again, I think that's a lateral move--Cedeno and Jaramillo are both credible second-division starters and nothing more, and neither have a ton of upside. Actually, if I had to pick which of the two had the best chance to break out, I'd probably pick Cedeno, because of the power he flashed at times last year and because he, unlike Jaramillo, has a few lines on his stat sheet that suggest he can be somewhat better than a glove-first player. (There's also Jeff Clement, who's still trying to stick around as a catcher, but the idea that he can catch will be hard to take seriously until he actually does it for a month or so; given his knee problems, I think it's much more likely he sees time at the corners. If Doumit is traded and Clement can catch, great, but I frankly doubt that will happen.)
The Doumit-Hardy rumors are interesting, though, and they may be a blueprint for the sorts of Doumit rumors we hear the rest of the offseason. Doumit's 2009 season was bad enough that the Pirates probably aren't going to get much value for him if they pursue a standard veteran-for-prospects deal, but they could acquire a similarly talented but problematic player who isn't a catcher, so that Jaramillo can get some more playing time. An outfielder might be a possibility.
I think the more likely scenario, though, is for the Pirates to wait until after the season starts and hope Doumit shows he's healthy and productive, then deal him for younger players. That's essentially what they did with Jason Bay--there were rumors about Bay throughout the 2007-2008 offseason, but Bay had just had a terrible year, so the Pirates waited and dealt him after he hit well for a few months in 2008.