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November 6, 2009

Transaction Action

Better Angels and a Beantown Explosion?

by Christina Kahrl

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BOSTON RED SOX
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired OF-L Jeremy Hermida from the Marlins for LHPs Jose Alvarez and Hunter Jones; outrighted RHP Fernando Cabrera and OF-L Joey Gathright to Pawtucket (Triple-A); noted that INF-R Nick Green filed for free agency. [11/5]

What's this, a November 5 deal that suggests that Theo Epstein's crazy like a Fawkes? I have to admit, my initial response to this trade was an automatic, "meh." Four years into his big-league career, Hermida's been a massive disappointment, especially for statheads who wanted to invest in him some hope and faith that a young Three True Outcomes prospect might grow up to be a TTO producer in the majors. His seasonal Equivalent Averages have bounced around, from .251 as a 22-year-old rookie to .299 to .258 to .266-basically, three years of being below-average for a right fielder, and one season that makes a fan feel warm and tingly. Add in the not-so-muted gripes about his commitment level and the perception that he's an acceptable defender capable of doing better, and while he isn't an Andy Marte-like bit of street pizza on the prospect landscape, he's been something less than expected. As I quipped to a friend yesterday, it's sort of like fast-forwarding through the happy early part of the Ben Grieve story to get to the "and then he sucked" portion of the program.

So I was predisposed to shrug this off and wonder why Boston was bothering with affording itself the opportunity to go to arbitration with a below-average offensive performer. But the more I look, the more I like. Not that Jeremy Hermida's about to blow up like Parliament, but as frustrating as he has been to deal with and watch not develop, and as downright mediocre as his seasonal production has been in his two seasons since his 2007 bust-out, there's cause to believe that he might be primed to actually fulfill a few of the expectations people had for him three or four years ago. Where, you ask? Outside of Miami, because his career road record's actually semi-decent. As moribund as career rates of .265/.344/.425 might be for a corner outfielder, he's hit .276/.359/.456 on the road-decent, decent enough to work with if you intend to contend and that's your worst outfield starter. I put the question to Clay Davenport, on what translating just Hermida's road record equates to in EqA, and the answer's .284, which is decidedly above average for a big-league right fielder (.270 in 2009).

So, headed into his age-26 season, I find myself liking the odds that the Sox might just have an effective regular on their hands, and at very little cost in terms of treasure or blood. Whether this means that he's insurance against Papi's ongoing implosion, or a worthwhile reserve while they sort out what's up with Jason Bay's free agency and whether or not J.D. Drew gets hurt again, or if he's just a straight-up replacement for Bay, it's an interesting addition that only cost them organizational cannon fodder and the money they'll have to shell out as a result of Hermida's arbitration eligibility. The other interesting factor is that, arbitration-eligible or not, Hermida has options left, which might allow the Sox to make sure he can iron a few things out as a PawSock, or-should he wind up a big-league reserve-ping-pong him to nearby Pawtucket and back as needed, given the roster machinations every team seemingly has to resort to in-season. But here again, the upside's suggested in that career-long record for road performance, so as a gambit Epstein can utilize in any one of a number of ways, this winds up looking like a good little move for a club that has a few big moves yet to sort out.


LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Re-signed RF-L Bobby Abreu to a two-year, $18 million deal, with a $9 million club option ($1 million buyout) for 2012. [11/5]

Between this financial commitment, and with Maicer Izturis, Howie Kendrick, and Brandon Wood all available to man next year's Angels infield, this would seem to mean that Chone Figgins is on Lucifer's Superslide to Sheol. You can understand the relative priorities from the Angels' perspective-a dash of lefty power in a lineup that leans right (especially if Wood gets Figgins' at-bats), the yummy OBP goodness they learned to like this year, and a better track record for staying healthy than Figgy's got on his ledger. Add in the playing-time protections that let the Halos opt out of 2012 but also let Abreu vest that third season (1100 PAs combined in the first two years, or 550 in 2010), and it all seems like a relatively sensible short- to medium-term commitment with a high average annual value (AAV). Considering his (Abreu's) production in four of his last five years (the fifth being his trade-year spike in 2006 when he took things up a notch in his first two months as a Yankee), his value seems to have settled into three to four wins (per WARP3), and while his all-time EqA is .307, his career rates are right around .300/.400/.500. Those last numbers are falling, and will continue to, not that it's going to cost Abreu a shot at the Hall (not unless they open up the Vada Pinson Wing for the Really Pretty Darn OK), and it's also interesting to see Abreu's late-career morph from mid-order threat to top-order ignitor. For all of the griping over his aversion to large, immovable objects bordering the outfield, he's been a wonderful player, and remains one of the all-time expansion draft steals.


OAKLAND ATHLETICS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated LHPs Josh Outman and Dallas Braden and RHPs Vin Mazzaro, Justin Duchscherer, and Joey Devine from the 60-day DL. [11/5]

That's the makings of a pretty good staff, no? Anyway, the Duke's bound for free agency, so this is more of a paper move than anything else as far as his temporary presence on the roster, although it will be interesting to see if the A's offer arbitration to him as a Type B free agent, and if he decides that's the best offer available to him after missing a season. Outman's out until sometime during the second half as he recovers from his June TJS, so his presence on the 40-man is something that'll end with his returning to the DL before Opening Day. But Braden, Mazzaro, and Devine all seem set to show up and bid for jobs in spring training, so there's something to hang your A's cap on.


CINCINNATI REDS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Outrighted C-R Corky Miller and OF-R Darnell McDonald to Louisville (Triple-A). [11/5]

COLORADO ROCKIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Re-signed RHP Matt Belisle to a one-year, $850,000 deal; re-signed LHP Randy Flores to a one-year, $650,000 deal. [11/5]

MIAMI MARLINS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Acquired LHPs Jose Alvarez and Hunter Jones from the Red Sox for OF-L Jeremy Hermida. [11/5]

The bigger story here isn't that the Marlins got rid of Hermida, or that Hermida was frustrating to deal with (whether as a matter of production or something else), or that they dealt him for stuff before non-tendering him rather than deal with his arbitration case. No, it is instead that this is another example of the Marlins' indifference to adequacy, ditching replaceable players once they get expensive. This isn't a new development-witness last winter's dispatch of "name" players like Kevin Gregg, Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham, Joe Nelson, and Scott Olsen. That was cause for some colleagues and observers to yammer away about how the Marlins weren't taking themselves seriously, weren't a real outfit, didn't belong in the industry, and who knows what else. Setting aside references to the time-honored space in the game for skinflints like the Griffith family, or the acceptance of quisling-esque stooges like Arnold Johnson, that didn't seem especially well-considered then, and it doesn't really seem to work now. Somewhat predictably, most of the players the Fish ditched didn't do a whole lot, let alone enough to merit the expense of having them, with only Willingham representing a cause for regret.

Complaining about the Lorians has merits in specific areas-stadium initiatives in a few cities, their role in the great franchise swap and whether they had an under-the-table deal to run the Expos as little more than slumlords beforehand, for example-but their sort of relentless efficiency in terms of who Larry Beinfest keeps, and who they let go, doesn't seem antithetical to success in the standings. If ditching the dreck lets them afford Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson, and if Beinfest keeps doing a good job of filling out the rest of the roster, it's a lot more compelling and successful than how a number of other organizations have been operated in recent years, certainly.

The lesser question where the Marlins are concerned is to ask whether Hermida's going to be the new Jacobs, or the new Willingham, and I get into that in the Red Sox section. As far as the little they got for him, Jones might wind up as a useful-enough situational lefty right now, having limited International League lefties to .206/.288/.381, and throwing hard enough to not be completely easy meat for the odd right-hander. Alvarez is a diminutive 20-year-old Venezuelan southpaw with a decent curve and standard-issue lefty velocity. He's spent the first part of the season in the bullpen in High-A Salem before getting pushed back down to Lowell's rotation in Short-season A-ball once the New York-Penn League swung into action, getting torched in the former before doing well in the latter. Considering he's 150 pounds and under six feet tall, he's going to either have to fill out or beat the automatic suspicion that gets attached to the undertall in the industry, and his stuff isn't of the sort to make him an top talent. Maybe he becomes something, maybe not.

Here again, the issue is less the talent received for Hermida as much as it is what they do-within their oft-noted budgetary limitations-with the money saved. If they find a way to afford Johnson just as they did HanRam, I'd consider this another example of sensible asset management when you have limited resources. Another 80-win season isn't going to depend on Hermida's presence. Cody Ross was going to wind up in a corner as matters already stood with Cameron Maybin's settling in at center, so the real question about who's in the outfield is whether a deal involving Dan Uggla leads to Chris Coghlan's moving back to second base.


HOUSTON ASTROS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contracts of LHP Fernando Abad and SS-R Wladimir Sutil from Corpus Christi (Double-A). [11/5]

NEW YORK METS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Purchased the contract of 3B-R Shawn Bowman from Binghamton (Double-A). [11/5]

Bowman's an odd sort of prospect, as far as the word goes. The big Canadian will turn 25 next month, and had a decent season for Binghamton (.294/.346/.458, for a decidedly unspecial .229 EqA), which is why the Mets have decided to protect him from the Rule 5 draft. A 2002 draft pick, and already challenged with the late-development issues that many Canadian prospects have to work through, Bowman's path was further diverted by injuries in 2006 and 2007. So, we can cut Bowman a break... but only so far. He did all of his damage against lefties, and for a guy who makes contact, his track record as a situational hitter last season was appalling, so it's clear that there's more for him to work on. Given the Mets have issues to iron out and need to add players to address them, it wouldn't be all that surprising if he gets pushed off of the roster at some point after the Rule 5 draft next month, but he might also be someone who eventually takes on the Fernando Tatis set of responsibilities from the bench.


PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Activated RHP John Ennis from the 15-day DL; purchased the contract of RHP Scott Mathieson from Reading (Double-A). [11/5]
Announced the decision to pick up the $8 million club option on LHP Cliff Lee for 2010. [11/6]


Christina Kahrl is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Christina's other articles. You can contact Christina by clicking here

Related Content:  A's,  Joey Devine,  Depth,  The Who,  Josh Outman,  Big Papi,  Depth Chart

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