Red Sox start offseason with bang, acquire Jeremy Hermida

Marlins vs. Braves

UPDATE: Theo on the trade: “It was a chance to get a guy with unfulfilled potential for a reasonable cost.” The Red Sox consider Hermida an average defender in either left or right field. (MLBTR)

The Red Sox have acquired Florida Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida for lefty pitchers Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez.

Hermida, 25, has been long on potential after being the 11th pick in the 2002 draft. However, with injuries and no “leap forward,” he was a liability to the club at a 2009 $2.25 million salary, sure to rise in arbitration.

Hermida is far from a lost cause despite his trade value apparently being a bunch of generic left-handers. (Okay, Alvarez has some promise, but he’s a long shot.) In 2007, he hit .296/.369/.501 with 18 home runs in 123 games. This past year, he checked in at .259/.348/.392. What you can’t take away from him is his obvious ability to draw a walk, and now it’s just time to tap his power potential, which he’s already flashed. Can Boston arrest his declining power?

This is not the first time Hermida has been involved in Red Sox trade talks. Back when Manny Ramirez was traded, a couple rumors had Hermida going to either the Red Sox or Pirates. (A little more history: In 2005, Hermida gained some notoriety for hitting a grand slam in his first major league at-bat.)

Hermida is very unlikely to be a starting outfielder for the Boston club next year, but he’s solid depth in case things go awry. Only turning 26, the potential is there for him to realize what made him said 11th pick in the draft.

He’s a left-handed bat, and he has a rather steep platoon split over his career: .792 OPS against right-handers, .697 against lefties. This past season, his OPS was .786 against righties and .601 against lefties. Even if he never learns how to hit left-handed pitching, this guy is very capable of being our brand new Trot Nixon. And that’s not shabby: Nixon was just named the Red Sox’s right-fielder of the decade.

If Hermida opens the season as a starting outfielder (even if it’s in a platoon situation), it will signal that Boston views 2010 as a transitional year; a year that the team can compete, but not at a high level.

For those who want to go for the jugular and compete, that will be disappointing. Without dealing in those possibles, I’ll tell you why I like this deal: I’m thrilled at his upside. He easily becomes Boston’s best young outfielder. At this point, I’d rate him higher than Josh Reddick on a theoretical prospect list. What Reddick has going for him that Hermida doesn’t, though, is age and options.

If he serves off the bench, he will be a very capable outfielder with a chance to start in the years to come. One cause for concern: Hermida has only minimal major league experience in left- and center-field, making me wonder about the long-term ramifications of this deal. Does Boston think he can handle a fourth outfielder role, shuttling between three positions? Do they plan to carry Brian Anderson as a fifth outfielder? And I haven’t even mentioned that by the measure of UZR, he is a poor defender in right. (Assuming UZR is correct, of course.)

One thought… perhaps this is a precursor to a larger trade that will include Hermida. [Edit: Amalie Benjamin’s heard the same whispers, and a source said the deal was made simply because the trade was cheap and odds are he performs better. The source goes on to mention Hermida might not even be on the Sox come 2010.] I’m leaning towards that not being the case, however, given how little Boston had to give up to acquire Hermida. Other teams could have easily beat the offer, and $3 million is not prohibitive when you look at Hermida’s talent.

The first salvo of Boston’s offseason has been fired. What’s next?