The Red Sox had been engaged in talks with Bay earlier this year but negotiations broke off without an agreement. While it’s still possible that the left fielder could be playing in Fenway next season, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him chase a bigger contract from another club. The 31 year-old Bay has amassed 45 home runs, 156 RBI, and 142 runs scored in 200 games with the Red Sox His .915 OPS with the club is slightly better than his career average of .896. Bay is a virtual lock to be a 30/100 player over the next few seasons, and he’ll command a high price on the open market.
Competition in that market is fairly thin. Cardinals’ GM John Mozeliak was quoted as saying that slugger Matt Holliday is likely to become a free agent after talks about an extension with St. Louis have failed. If that proves to be true, Holliday and Bay will likely be the two marquee outfielders available, setting up a potential bidding war among the game’s wealthier teams. Holliday has previously expressed a preference for the National League, so it could be difficult for Boston to secure either of these big bats.
With that knowledge surely in mind, Theo Epstein and the Boston brain trust made the move to grab Hermida as quickly as possible. In him they get a young, inexpensive player with big upside. At first glance, fans might be puzzled. In 4+ seasons with the Marlins, Hermida’s line has been less than impressive:
.265/.344/ .425 with 57 HR and 210 RBI in 1,708 at bats.
It’s easy to criticize the lack of production, the poor batting eye (426 strikeouts to only 190 walks), and the significant time lost to injury. But Hermida is still only 25 years old and should be entering his statistical prime over the next few seasons. In fact, the age 27 season is usually a player’s best year, so depending on what he does in 2010, the Sox could be getting him at just the right time. He’ll likely earn somewhere in the $3 million range, and if he can come close to replicating his 2007 season (.870 OPS/ 18 HR/ 63 RBI in 123 games) then he’ll be a bargain. It’s also important to consider the fact that with Florida, Hermida faced constant pressure to supply offense- he didn’t have many run producers around him. With Boston, he’ll be more of a role-player and expectations will lessen. This decreased pressure might have a way of igniting Hermida’s bat.
It’s unlikely that Boston views Hermida as a full-time player at this stage, but at worst they acquired a quality backup who can platoon in left or right. This acquisition is all about potential, and because they gave up so little in return it will probably prove to be an excellent decision.
Boston sent relief pitchers Hunter Jones and Jose Alvarez to Florida to complete the trade. Jones, a 25 year-old southpaw, posted an ugly 9.24
ERA and 1.82 WHIP in limited action with the Red Sox last season. His 12.2 innings pitched represent his only big league experience, so those high numbers are probably misleading. His career minor league numbers are more indicative of his ability, but the fact that he has declined as he’s progressed upward through the system has to be alarming.
In 36 games at the AA level, Jones posted a 2.49 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and 3.45 K:BB
ratio. In 71 games at AAA, he dropped to a 3.65 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and 2.34 K:BB.
Already 25, he needs to show significant improvement in short order, or he risks remaining a fringe player at best.
Alvarez is a 20 year-old who played A-ball in 2009. He’s still very much a work in progress, and evaluating his long-term potential will have to wait until he gets some additional experience. He’ll get a good long look in the Marlins’ farm system, but parting with him didn’t do much to harm Boston’s future outlook.
The Red Sox made some other recent moves that will change the face of next year’s team. Shortstop Nick Green was sent to AAA Pawtucket, a signal that the team is likely content to let him enter free agency. Green came into 2009 expecting to be a reserve infielder, but proved to be much more. He finished with 103 appearance for Boston and, at times, played the role of a very unlikely hero for the Sox. But more often, his poor defense was a cause for concern and ultimately led the team to acquire Alex Gonzalez from Cincinnati. Gonzalez has earned acclaim for his glove work, and while he didn’t offer much at the plate, the Red Sox obviously feel that Green’s services are no longer required. He’ll be looking for a utility job with another club next year.
Also departing the team will be speedster Joey Gathright, who was sent to Pawtucket along with Green and reliever Fernando Cabrera. Gathright didn’t make much of an impact with Boston, but his ability to swipe bags will make him somewhat of a commodity on the open market.
There are grumblings around Boston that the Sox are concerned about Jacoby Ellsbury’s viability as a centerfielder. Although no one questions his speed or his ability to cover ground, his defensive instincts and lack of arm strength have the team pondering a move to left field. That would probably happen only if the team is unable to re-sign Bay or acquire another LF superstar like Holliday.
If it does become necessary to shift Ellsbury, the Red Sox will need to find a centerfield replacement. Rumors are swirling around guys like the Mets’ Carlos Beltran, but as good as he is, he’ll be 33 going into next season. As a short-term solution he might work, but the Sox need to consider their long-term health before assuming the cost that Beltran would carry.
And finally, the San Diego Padres hired Red Sox assistant GM Jed Hoyer to replace outgoing general manager Kevin Towers. Losing Hoyer will be a blow to Boston’s front office, but it may lead to benefits down the road. It puts in place a close relationship between the two organizations, and it’s no secret that the Red Sox covet Padres’ slugger Adrian Gonzalez. It wouldn’t be a shocker to see Hoyer and his former bosses settle into some serious talks about a trade that could benefit both sides. Sox fans everywhere should monitor the situation.