Taking advantage of a fire sale

It might not be a full-blown, tear it down and rebuild the whole thing kind of firesale, but it’s obvious the Florida Marlins are again moving higher priced players for younger, cheaper alternatives. While in previous years they moved megastars like Josh Beckett & Miguel Cabrera before they cashed in during free agency, this year they dealt Mike Jacobs, Josh Willingham & Scott Olsen before they received raises in arbitration, a somewhat disturbing development.

After Monday night’s move that sent the Marlins’ longest tenured hitter & pitcher north to DC, speculation mounted that the team’s remaining arbitration eligible players – namely Dan Uggla, Kevin Gregg and Jeremy Hermida – could be the next to go. Gregg is readily available and could be had by any team offering a decent return, but GM Larry Beinfest responded to the speculation surrounding Uggla & Hermida by saying that he’s prepared to go into 2009 with them in the lineup. Even so, I imagine he’d entertain offers for both players, and that’s where the Bombers come in.

The Yanks are desperate to get younger and more athletic, and Hermida offers both those attributes while bringing strong upside. Still just 24, he has over 1,270 big league at-bats under his belt, hitting .267-.342-.436 (103 OPS+) in the process. He’s flashed some of the potential that made him the 11th overall pick in 2002, hitting .350-.407-.574 during the final two months of 2007 (singlehandedly saving my fantasy team) before going .309-.351-.488 in the first month of 2008. Hermida was rumored to be heading to Pittsburgh during the Manny Ramirez Trade Deadline Saga, indicating that other clubs still like his potential.

Rated the fourth best prospect in the game by Baseball America prior to the 2006 season, Hermida made history by becoming only the second player (and first in 107 years) to hit a grand slam in his first big league plate appearance. Armed with a sweet lefthanded swing and military style plate disipline (he placed 12nd in the league last year with 4.11 P/PA), getting out of cavernous Dolphins Stadium (where he’s hit .248-.320-.404 in his career) and into lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium (he’s a career .284-.363-.467 hitter on the road) might just be the jump start he needs.

With just nine games of centerfield experience to his credit (all coming in the first half of 2006), Hermida wouldn’t be option for the Yanks at that spot. Despite this limitation, he still offers some flexibility because he can hold his own against lefties, play both outfield corners, and still has options left, meaning he could be sent to the minors as needed. And as far as that report by an anonymous scout saying he has “no passion for the game,” I’ll just defer to ex-Marlins’ manager Joe Girardi, and assume Cash will talk to him before attempting to acquire Hermida.

I’m not going to throw out trade ideas, because I have no idea what Florida is looking for. Keep in mind that while the Marlins’ last few trades were made for essentially pennies on the dollar, Jacobs is a limited player entering his age 28 season, Willingham has a bad back and is entering his age 30 season, and Olsen has a reputation as a punk. Their rotation is pretty much set with Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad & Andrew Miller, and they have plenty of backup in Rick VandenHurk, Ryan Tucker, Dan Meyer, Eulogio DeLaCruz and Burke Badenhop, so Ian Kennedy might not entice them. Melky Cabrera‘s trade value is nil, and the Yanks have no other young position players to offer up.

Signing big name free agents is fun, but they almost always fail to deliver, and frankly it’s the easy way out. Be bold and take a chance on a guy who still has something to prove rather than playing through the nose for a player who’s already played his best baseball for someone else. It’s not often you get a chance to buy-low on a player with Hermida’s talent and upside, and much like Nick Swisher, I hope the tires are at least kicked on this one.